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Sepsis is a serious medical condition that can result in organ damage or death. It happens when the body’s immune system has a severe response to an infection. Sepsis is a medical emergency. It needs to be treated right away.
Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can invade your body and cause disease. When your body senses one of these, the immune system responds. Your body releases certain chemicals into the blood that can help fight infection.
In some cases, the body has an abnormal and severe response to infection. This can cause inflammation around the body and damage your body’s cells. Blood clots may start to form all over the body. Some blood vessels may start to leak. Blood flow and blood pressure may start to drop. This harms the body’s organs by stopping oxygen and nutrients from reaching them. If this process isn’t stopped, organs in the body can stop working. This can lead to death.
The definition of sepsis has recently been updated. Sepsis is now defined as a life-threatening organ dysfunction and is assessed with a Sepsis-Related Organ Failure Assessment Score (SCORE). The term sepsis is used to define any condition in which organ dysfunction occurs in the presence of an infection. Septic shock is when sepsis is accompanied with changes to the circulatory, cellular, and metabolic systems.
Sepsis is a common cause of death in hospital intensive care units. It can affect people of all ages, but children and older adults are at highest risk.
Sepsis never happens on its own. It always starts with an infection somewhere in your body, such as:
Bacteria are the most common cause these infections. Viruses, parasites, and fungi can also cause them and lead to sepsis. In some cases, the bacteria enter the body through a medical device such as a blood vessel catheter. An infection that spreads around the body through the bloodstream is more likely to cause sepsis. An infection in just one part of the body is less likely to lead to sepsis.
Sepsis is sometimes called blood poisoning, but this is misleading. Sepsis isn’t caused by poison.
Some health problems and other conditions that impair your ability to fight infection can raise your risk for sepsis, such as:
Symptoms and signs of sepsis can include:
The symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the sepsis. These symptoms may be mild at first and then quickly get worse.
To diagnose sepsis, a healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. He or she will do a physical exam. Some of the symptoms of early sepsis are the same as other medical conditions. This can make sepsis hard to diagnose in its early stages. An exam of the heart, lungs, and abdomen are needed to help diagnose sepsis.
You may also have tests, such as:
A healthcare provider will often suspect sepsis in a person with certain signs. These include an abnormal body temperature, rapid heart and breathing rate, and abnormal white count. A healthcare provider can make an official diagnosis when there is a source of infection and abnormal signs and symptoms indicate the presence of organ dysfunction. Septic shock is diagnosed when the signs of organ dysfunction do not improve with treatment.
Treatment is often done in a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). This is because sepsis needs very active care. Vital signs such as heart rate will be constantly watched. Blood and urine tests will be done often. Your condition will be watched and your treatment adjusted as often as needed.
The source of the sepsis must be treated. To do this, your healthcare provider will likely use medicines. You will receive several treatments at once. At first, you will get an antibiotic that works on many types of bacteria. Results of culture and sensitivity test can identify a specific type of bacteria and the appropriate antibiotic. Pockets of infection may need to be drained. These are called abscesses. In some cases, an infected part of the body may need to be removed with surgery.
In addition to antibiotic treatment, you will also need other types of treatments to help support the body, such as:
Most people with mild sepsis do recover. But even with intense treatment, some people die from sepsis. Up to half of all people with severe sepsis will die from it.
Many people survive sepsis without any lasting problems. Other people may have serious problems from sepsis, such as organ damage. Some of possible complications of sepsis include:
Call or see a healthcare provider right away if you or someone else has symptoms of sepsis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help improve the chances of a good recovery.After recovery, you may be more susceptible to infections and other illnesses. Call or see your healthcare provider at the first signs of an infection or illness.
Sepsis is a serious medical condition that can result in organ damage or death. It happens when the body’s immune system has a severe response to an infection.
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