Many people confuse sepsis with septicemia. However, the latter is an infection of the blood and a cause of sepsis. On the other hand, sepsis occurs when your body develops complications following an infection. The immune system is the center of attraction in sepsis patients. It enters into overdrive. The production of chemicals by the immune system causes inflammation and damage of several organs in the body, leading to sepsis. Sepsis is life-threatening if nothing is done about it. According to the CDC, up to 270,000 Americans die from sepsis each year, and over 1.5 million sepsis cases are recorded annually.
Breathing difficulties, sweaty skin, high body temperatures, and an increase in heart rate are all sepsis signs. These are common in patients with mild to moderate sepsis. People with severe sepsis can have additional symptoms like confusion and severe hypotension. Sepsis is a response to infection involving any part of the body, thus the mentioned signs. It is common in people with a weak immune system and older adults.
How Does Sepsis Occur?
Sepsis occurs when you have an infection of organs like the skin and urinary tract. Infection of any organ can cause sepsis when it is not properly managed. In most cases, the infection is bacterial. The immune system reacts to fight off diseases in normal situations. However, in sepsis, the system reacts dramatically to the infection by releasing harmful chemicals. These chemicals travel in the body to cause widespread inflammation. Blood clotting also occurs alongside the inflammation, leading to a limited flow of blood to vital organs and the extremities.
This reduction in blood supply to the vital organs has several consequences for each organ affected. For example, reduced blood flow to the kidney causes the accumulation of metabolic wastes. This is because an adequate blood supply to the kidney is essential in the elimination of toxic wastes. The result of this is damage to the kidney and other vital organs affected.
Risks Factors for Sepsis
- Some people have a higher risk of getting sepsis than others. The risk factors include:
- Newborns or infants below one year. Premature and low birth weight babies are more susceptible because their immune systems are not well developed.
- Individuals above 65 years of age
- Weak immune systems in HIV/AIDs patients and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
- Those with pre-existing conditions like kidney disease and diabetes.
- Intensive care unit patients.
- Invasive hospital devices like breathing tubes and catheters. These may contain microorganisms that can cause further infection in a patient.
- Patients with large wounds, burns, and other severe injuries.
- Patients who have a previous history of sepsis are more likely to get the infection compared to those with no history.
Warning Signs and Getting Fast Treatment
Plenty of warning signs can indicate that a patient has sepsis. These signs are dependent on the body site affected. They include high fever, high heart rate, sweaty skin, short breath, chills, and confusion.
As soon as the doctor or patient detects these signs, fast treatment is necessary. Any patient who shows any sign of sepsis should receive care in the intensive care unit. Before treatment starts, diagnostic testing helps to determine the best pharmacological therapy for the patient. Antibiotics are mainly used because bacteria are the most significant cause of sepsis. However, the type of microbe will ultimately direct the therapy the patient will receive. If the sepsis-causing organism is a virus, an antiviral will be used. Doctors use intravenous fluids to prevent the patient from going into severe hypotension, which is a characteristic symptom of septic shock.
Adequate blood pressure is achieved using vasopressor medications. For patients who experience organ failure, supportive care is necessary. The type of supportive care the patient will receive will depend on the organ damaged. Patients with kidney damage will undergo dialysis to help in the excretion of toxic wastes. Patients with respiratory failure will receive mechanical ventilation to help ease breathing.
Therefore, suffering from sepsis is incredibly dangerous. It is life-threatening when the patient fails to get urgent medical care. The condition progresses quickly to cause sepsis shock. This is characterized by severe hypotension, multiple organ damage, and eventually death.