What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by your body’s response to an infection. Your immune system protects you from many illnesses and infections, but it’s also possible for it to go into overdrive in response to an infection.
Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead. Severe cases of sepsis can lead to septic shock, which is a medical emergency.
What causes sepsis?
Sepsis is a condition caused by your body’s immune system responding abnormally to an infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It can happen as a response to any injury or infection, anywhere in the body. It can result from:
- a chest infection causing pneumonia
- a urine infection in the bladder
- a problem in the abdomen, such as a burst ulcer or a hole in the bowel
- an infected cut or bite
- a wound from trauma or surgery
- a leg ulcer or cellu litis
Sepsis can be caused by a huge variety of different germs, like streptococcus, e-coli, MRSA or C diff. Most cases are caused by common bacteria, which normally don’t make us ill.
What are the symptoms of sepsis?
There are three stages of sepsis: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. Sepsis can happen while you’re still in the hospital recovering from a procedure, but this isn’t always the case.
It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the below symptoms. The earlier you seek treatment, the greater your chances of survival.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- a fever above 101ºF (38ºC) or a temperature below 96.8ºF (36ºC)
- heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
- breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
- probable or confirmed infection
You must have two of these symptoms before a doctor can diagnose sepsis.
Severe sepsis occurs when there’s organ failure. You must have one or more of the following signs to be diagnosed with severe sepsis:
- patches of discolored skin
- decreased urination
- changes in mental ability
- low platelet (blood clotting cells) count
- problems breathing
- abnormal heart functions
- chills due to fall in body temperature
- extreme weakness
Symptoms of septic shock include the symptoms of severe sepsis, plus a very low blood pressure.
Are some people more at risk of getting sepsis?
We still don’t know why some people who get an infection develop sepsis and others don’t. People are more likely to develop sepsis after a viral illness like a cold, or a minor injury. But it can affect anyone, regardless of age or state of health. However, some people are more likely to get severe sepsis, including those who:
- are very young or very old
- are diabetic
- are on long-term steroids or on drugs to treat cancer or other conditions
- have had an organ transplant and are on anti-rejection drugs
- are malnourished (your body hasn’t had enough food)
- have serious liver disease
- have a serious illness which affects your immune system (the way your body protects itself from infection), such as leukaemia
- have an infection or a complication after an operation
- are pregnant or have just given birth
What to do if you suspect sepsis?
It is imperative that you call the emergency services. Time is crucial in cases of sepsis to administer the correct medication to prevent it from becoming fatal. Even if you are not sure that it is sepsis, do not wait. In Spain the number to call is 112.
If you want to see the GP at Medcare for any medical problem, call 966 860 258 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. She will examine you and if necessary, refer you to hospital for tests or treatment.