Sepsis: Causes, Symptoms, and treatment options
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s immune system responds abnormally to an infection. It is a medical emergency that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent complications and deaths.
Causes of Sepsis
Sepsis occurs when an infection spreads from one part of the body to other organs through the bloodstream. The infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.
Common sites of infection that can lead to sepsis include the lungs, urinary tract, skin, and abdominal organs.
There are common causes of sepsis. These include infections of the respiratory system (pneumonia, for example), of the genitourinary system (such as urinary tract or kidney infections), gastrointestinal infections, and, in the healthcare setting, indwelling catheter sites.
Infections of the central nervous system (meningitis), as well as of the skin and soft tissues (surgical site, wounds, or burns) are also common causes of sepsis.
Symptoms of Sepsis
The symptoms of sepsis can vary, depending on the severity of the condition. The early symptoms may include fever, chills, rapid breathing, and a rapid heart rate.
As the condition progresses, the patient may experience confusion, dizziness, and decreased urine output. In severe cases, the patient may experience organ failure, septic shock, and even death.
- Tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
- Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
- Altered mental state (confusion)
- Lethargy especially in children
Who is at risk of sepsis?
Sepsis can affect anyone with an infection, but certain groups are at higher risk. Babies up to one month of age and people over the age of 65 are most susceptible. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or receiving chemotherapy, are also at higher risk.
Long hospital stays or ICU admission may increase the likelihood of sepsis. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and patients with implanted medical devices or a history of long-term antibiotic use are also at risk.
Diagnosis of Sepsis
The diagnosis of sepsis involves a physical examination and various laboratory tests. The healthcare provider will look for signs of infection and check the vital signs, such as heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Blood tests, urine tests, and other laboratory tests may be performed to identify the type of infection and the severity of the condition.
How is sepsis prevented?
Preventing sepsis involves taking measures to prevent infections and promptly treating any infections that occur. Good hygiene practices, such as washing hands frequently, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with sick individuals, can help prevent the spread of infections.
Immunizations can also help prevent certain infections. For patients with a weakened immune system or a history of recurrent infections, prophylactic antibiotics or antifungal medications may be prescribed to prevent infections.
No, this is a common misunderstanding. While bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) can lead to sepsis, it is not sepsis.
Yes! Sepsis is a medical emergency. It is the leading cause of death in hospitals. One out of every three hospital deaths is related to sepsis.
Yes. COVID-19 is a virus, which can lead to the complication of sepsis.
Seek medical attention immediately and say “I suspect sepsis”.
No. Sepsis is not contagious.
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