Sepsis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Sepsis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Sepsis is a life-threatening medical emergency that occurs when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs.

Sepsis can cause shock, which is a life-threatening condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Untreated, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failures and death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 patients who die in the hospital has sepsis.

Causes of sepsis

Sepsis can be caused by any type of infection, including:

Who Gets Sepsis?

Anyone can develop sepsis, but some people are at greater risk than others.

Those at greatest risk include:

  • Infants and young children
  • Older adults
  • People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or lung or heart disease
  • Someone with weakened immune systems
  • People who have had recent surgery
  • People who have been in the hospital for a long time

Symptoms

The symptoms of sepsis can vary from person to person.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Fast breathing
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Slurring your speech
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Unusually low blood pressure

How is sepsis diagnosed?

Sepsis is diagnosed using a combination of a physical exam and lab tests.

First of all, your doctor will ask you about your medical history and symptoms.

Then, they’ll order a blood test to check for infection-causing bacteria as well as a complete blood count to check for an abnormal white blood cell count.

They may also order a chest X-ray or other imaging tests to check for signs of infection in your lungs or elsewhere in your body.

What are the chances of surviving sepsis?

If sepsis is caught early and treated promptly, your chances of surviving are good.

However, if it’s not recognized and treated quickly, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 40% of the mortality rate among sepsis patients is due to septic shock.

Treatment

Treating sepsis requires prompt medical attention.

If caught early, sepsis can often be treated with antibiotics and intravenous (IV) fluids.

If it’s more severe, you may need to be hospitalized and treated with IV antibiotics and fluids as well as other supportive treatments.

These could include oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation, and dialysis.

In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to remove the infection.

How long does it take to get rid of sepsis?

In mild sepsis, it may take only a few days for the body to clear the infection and recover.

However, in more severe cases, it may take weeks or even months to make a full recovery.

Prevention

The best way to prevent sepsis is to practice good hygiene and prompt treatment of infections.

Some other tips for preventing sepsis include:

  • Getting vaccinated against conditions such as the flu and pneumonia
  • Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Avoiding contact with people who are sick
  • Promptly treating infections and wounds
  • Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise
  • Managing chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease
Sepsis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

The bottom line

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires prompt medical treatment.

If you or a loved one develop any of the early warning signs of sepsis, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.

With early diagnosis and treatment, the chances of surviving sepsis are good.

Don’t delay in getting the care you or your loved one needs.

It could save a life.