What is Sepsis Infection?

septicemia legs

Do you have an abnormally low or high body temperature? And happens to have rashes? Or perhaps has an on going illness and suddenly experiences palpitation or is breathing faster than usual? Then this may not be just an isolated case of fever or tachycardia but possible a case of sepsis.

Sepsis, although not always synonymous, is sometimes interchangeably used with the terms septic shock, septicemia, immune system sepsis, bacteremia, blood poisoning, blood infection and systemic inflammatory response syndrome or SIRS.

Sepsis Infection

Sepsis is a dangerous condition involving the blood stream resulting from severe infection. This infection can be of the following nature:

  • Bacterial
  • Viral
  • Fungal
  • Parasitic

It may arise from the body’s own defense mechanism to fight the infection or due to the toxins that the causative agents produced. The body actually overreacts to infection making mechanisms such as blood clotting and inflammation difficult to deal with. The cause of sepsis range from simple tonsillitis to complicated pneumonia and any other infections of the lungs, kidney, skin and other organs. Sepsis may also occur following meningitis. It accounts for around one forth of patients brought to the intensive care unit and 1% of hospitalization cases. Mortality rate is higher for those who have underlying medical condition than for those who do not have.

Risk Factors

Even perfectly healthy people can develop sepsis but those who have low immunity are more prone to it.

  • This includes people who have certain disease states such as cancer or those people taking steroids or undergoing chemotherapy
  • Infants especially new born babies are also at high risk of developing sepsis because their immune system is not yet well developed.
  • The geriatrics is also at risk because of other medical conditions they have.
  • Spleen removal is another risk factor.

Incidence of sepsis usually happens in a hospital. For this reason medical staff and visitors must always keep themselves and the hospital environment clean. Washing is one good step to prevent this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis Infection

Sepsis has several signs and symptoms. It includes the following:

  • Fever – although normal body temperature may be seen, most people with sepsis have fever
  • Chill – this feeling of coldness usually accompanies fever
  • Increased heart rate or tachycardia – more than 90 beats per minute at rest
  • Fast respiratory rate – more than 20 breaths in 60 seconds
  • Low blood pressure and dizziness
  • Joint pains – rarely reported
  • Reddish discoloration or rash on the skin

Septic shock is a severe case of sepsis. Some of its manifestation includes skin bleeding, confusion and decreased urination.

Sepsis Infection Diagnosis and Prognosis

Diagnosis of sepsis may be done using laboratory tests such as blood analysis. An elevated white blood cell is expected here. Blood culture may also be performed. Other body fluids like sputum or abscess may also be analyzed for the presence of the causative organisms. Chest X-ray for the case of pneumonia and CT scan may also aid in the diagnosis. The heart rate must also be observed.

Sepsis Infection Treatment

After diagnosis and determining the exact infectious organism, people with sepsis are treated with antibiotics. Initially this is given by injection intravenously. Saline solutions and other drugs may be used to increase blood pressure. Some cases may require pus drainage using tubes or through surgery.

The high risk of organ failure associated with sepsis demands hospitalization of patients. Organ failure is avoided because it may result to many complications and in worst cases death. As mentioned people with sepsis are treated in the intensive care unit. Those patients with sepsis that have already acquired organ failure may need mechanical intervention such as ventilators and dialysis.

Now that you know what is sepsis infection then you should always be vigilant to its signs and symptoms. At risk or not frequent hand washing and other sanitary methods must be observed at all time and any where. But even if sepsis cannot always be prevented, maintaining a healthy immune system will surely help. Thoroughly scheduled vaccination is also recommended. And although its occurrence is continually increasing you can always avoid or stop its progression to organ failure and other complications by immediately seeking medical attention. Relying on our own knowledge is not enough to fight sepsis. So if you are experiencing the above mentioned manifestations then visit your doctor right away.


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