Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of sepsis, a serious infection-related illness.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's response to an infection damages its own tissues. When the infection-fighting processes turn on the body, they cause organs to function poorly and abnormally.
Sepsis may progress to septic shock. This is a dramatic drop in blood pressure that can lead to severe organ problems and death.
Early treatment with antibiotics and intravenous fluids improves chances for survival.
To be diagnosed with sepsis, you must have a probable or confirmed infection and all of the following signs:
Septic shock is a severe drop in blood pressure that results in highly abnormal problems with how cells work and produce energy. Progression to septic shock increases the risk of death. Signs of progression to septic shock include:
Most often, sepsis occurs in people who are hospitalized or who have recently been hospitalized. People in an intensive care unit are more likely to develop infections that can then lead to sepsis.
Any infection, however, could lead to sepsis. See your doctor about an infection or wound that hasn't responded to treatment. Signs or symptoms, such as confusion or rapid breathing, require emergency care.
While any type of infection — bacterial, viral or fungal — can lead to sepsis, infections that more commonly result in sepsis include infections of:
Several factors increase the risk of sepsis, including:
As sepsis worsens, blood flow to vital organs, such as your brain, heart and kidneys, becomes impaired. Sepsis may cause abnormal blood clotting that results in small clots or burst blood vessels that damage or destroy tissues.
Most people recover from mild sepsis, but the mortality rate for septic shock is about 40%. Also, an episode of severe sepsis places you at higher risk of future infections.
Doctors often order several tests to try to pinpoint underlying infection.
Blood samples are used to test for:
Other lab tests to identify the source of the infection might include samples of:
If the site of infection is not readily found, your doctor may order one or more of the following imaging tests:
Early, aggressive treatment increases the likelihood of recovery. People who have sepsis require close monitoring and treatment in a hospital intensive care unit. Lifesaving measures may be needed to stabilize breathing and heart function.
A number of medications are used in treating sepsis and septic shock. They include:
Other medications you may receive include low doses of corticosteroids, insulin to help maintain stable blood sugar levels, drugs that modify the immune system responses, and painkillers or sedatives.
People who have sepsis often receive supportive care that includes oxygen. Depending on your condition, you may need to have a machine help you breathe. If your kidneys have been affected, you may need to have dialysis.
Surgery may be needed to remove sources of infection, such as collections of pus (abscesses), infected tissues or dead tissues (gangrene).
May 4th, 2021