At EPIC Health, we believe in preventive wellness and strive to achieve optimal community wellness. It is our endeavor to educate the communities regarding potentially fatal diseases and conditions, so they can take adequate precautions. September is observed as the Sepsis Awareness Month. So, in an attempt to spread awareness about this condition, let’s dig deeper on Sepsis, its signs, symptoms, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Sepsis is a potentially fatal medical condition, which is brought about by your body responding to an infection. Whenever there is an infection in the body, the natural reaction of our immune system is to release chemicals into the bloodstream and fight it down.
However, sometimes the response initiated by the body to these chemicals goes askew. The chemical balance gets disturbed. This triggers a domino effect of changes that can cause multiple organ failure. Sepsis may rapidly advance, leading to septic shock, characterized by a radical drop in blood pressure which can even lead to death.
Sepsis can be caused by any infection and can affect any individual. However, certain individuals are known as ‘high risk’ for sepsis for example:
- Babies (under 12 months of age)
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease
- Senior adults
- Individuals with weakened immunity
If treatment – that may include high quantities of IV fluids and antibiotic medicines – is started in initial stages, the chances of survival are better.
To make a positive diagnosis of sepsis, the doctor will first confirm the probability or existence of an infection in your body, along with these symptoms:
- Blood pressure with systolic reading (the first or upper number in your BP reading) less than 100 mm Hg
- A respiratory rate equal to or higher than 22 breaths a minute
- Change in behavior
Signs and symptoms of septic shock
When the body’s circulatory system undergoes changes, it may also affect the cells in the body. The way the body uses the energy we consume also experiences a series of significant changes. . This can lead to septic shock setting in. And that’s when the patient’s life is at a high risk.
For a doctor to make a positive diagnosis of septic shock, along with a confirmed or likely infection, the patient must also exhibit both of the following:
- Necessity for medication to stabilize the blood pressure and maintain it at around 65 mmHg
- Very high levels of serum lactate, or lactic acid, in the blood after receiving IV fluids. Excess lactic acid in the blood is an indication that the oxygen in the blood is not being utilized properly by the cells in the body.
Nearly every kind of infection may cause sepsis, including the infections caused by fungi, viruses, or bacteria. However, the most common culprits are:
- Digestive system infections, especially in the colon or stomach
- Urinary system infections which affect the bladder, kidneys, urethra, etc.
- Bacteremia or infection of the bloodstream
Sepsis and septic shock are seen most commonly among these people:
- Little babies
- Aged people
- Individuals with compromised immunity
- Diabetics, heart patients, cancer patients
- People with kidney failure, and liver cirrhosis
- Patients with IV catheters, breathing or feeding tubes and other invasive devices
- Patients admitted into the ICU of hospitals, due to some other sickness
- Burn patients, individuals who have been in an accident and have serious wounds and injuries
- Patients who have been on prolonged use of corticosteroids or antibiotics
Sepsis can be present in mild to extremely severe forms. When the condition gets worse, the blood flow to vital organs like heart, brain, kidneys, liver, etc. is hampered. This can lead to the formation of blood clots in arms, fingers, legs, toes, and multiple organs, causing multiple organ failure and gangrene, and tissue death.
Usually, people can recover from a mild onset of sepsis. But if it progresses to septic shock, the chances of survival are very poor. The average rate of mortality caused by septic shock is 40%.
Even patients who survive an episode of severe sepsis are in a very high-risk category for infections in near future. Such individuals need to take extreme precautions to avoid sepsis for the rest of their lives.
When to see a doctor
As sepsis usually occurs in patients who were recently hospitalized or are in hospital currently. It is easier to seek medical intervention for such patients.
The doctors attending the patient must be immediately alerted at the very first sign of sepsis observed. The patients admitted to the intensive care units are also vulnerable and need to be constantly monitored.
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