What is sepsis?


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Know the basics

What is sepsis?

Sepsis, also called septicaemi or blood poisoning, is complication of an infection or injury that can potentially threaten your life. It is the result of chemicals releasing into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail.

How common is sepsis?

Sepsis is the most common and dangerous in older adults or those with weakened immune system, but it can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

The common signs and symptoms of sepsis are:

  • Body temperature above 38.3oC or below 36oC;
  • Heart rate higher than 90 beats a minute;
  • Respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths a minute;

The severe sepsis can have signs and symptoms like:

  • Significantly decreased urine output;
  • Abrupt change in mental status;
  • Decrease in platelet count;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Abnormal heart pumping;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Septic shock;

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You get an infection or if you develop signs and symptoms of sepsis after surgery;
  • You have severe sepsis and septic shock.

Know the causes

What causes sepsis?

The bacterial infection, the viral infection or the fungal infection contribute to your sepsis. The most likely varieties include pneumonia, abdominal infection, kidney infection, and bloodstream infection.

The aging population is also believed to be the cause of the sepsis. Besides that, the condition that bacteria resist bacteria can lead to your sepsis as well, which means that some types of bacteria can resist the effects of antibiotics that once killed them. Another cause is the weakened immune systems, which can be the result of HIV, cancer treatments or transplant drugs.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for sepsis?

There are many risk factors for sepsis, such as:

  • You are very young or very old;
  • Have a compromised immune system;
  • Are already very sick;
  • Have wounds or injuries, such as burns;
  • Have invasive devices, such as intravenous catheters or breathing tubes.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is sepsis diagnosed?

Tests are required by your doctor to determine if you have sepsis as well as identify the severity of your infection.

Blood tests may be the first step you need. It can help you check infection, clotting problems, abnormal liver or kidney function, decreased amount of oxygen, an imbalance in minerals called electrolytes that affect the amount of water in your body as well as the acidity of your blood.

With the results of your blood test accompanied with your symptoms, the other tests that can be done are a urine test to check if there is bacteria in your urine, a wound secretion test to check an open wound for an infection, a mucus secretion test to know which type of germs causes infection.

X-rays to view the lungs, computed tomography (CT) scans to view possible infections in the appendix, pancreas, or bowel area, ultrasounds to view infections in the gallbladder or ovaries, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can identify soft tissue infections are what you can be asked to take if the tests above can’t help to find out the source of infection.

How is sepsis treated?

If you detect your sepsis in early stages along with that the vital organs have not been affected, you can use  antibiotics to treat the infection at home. In this situation, you can expect to make a full recovery.

But if you don’t apply any treatment for your sepsis, it can develop to septic shock and even death at last. In this case, your doctor usually use a number of medications to treat sepsis. They can be antibiotics via IV to fight infection, vasoactive medications to increase blood pressure, insulin to stabilize blood sugar, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and painkillers.

When your sepsis is severe, large amounts of IV fluids and a respirator for breathing are necessary for you. Dialysis might be necessary if the kidneys are affected. During dialysis, a machine takes the kidneys’ function like filtering harmful wastes, salt, and excess water from the blood.

In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the source of an infection. This includes draining a pus-filled abscess or removing infected tissue.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sepsis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with sepsis:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to decrease the risk of developing infections that can lead to sepsis.
  • Quit smoking and drinking alcohol is suggested.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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