Definition

What is Septicemia?

Septicemia is a serious bloodstream infection. It’s also known as bacteremia, or blood poisoning. Septicemia occurs when a bacterial infection elsewhere in the body, such as in the lungs or skin, enters the bloodstream. This is dangerous because the bacteria and their toxins can be carried through the bloodstream to your entire body.

Septicemia can quickly become life-threatening. It must be treated in a hospital. If it’s left untreated, septicemia can progress to sepsis.

Septicemia and sepsis aren’t the same. Sepsis is a serious complication of septicemia. Sepsis is when inflammation throughout the body occurs. This inflammation can cause blood clots and block oxygen from reaching vital organs, resulting in organ failure.

When the inflammation occurs with extremely low blood pressure, it’s called septic shock. Septic shock is fatal in many cases.

How common is Septicemia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Septicemia?

The onset of septicemia is signaled by a high fever, chills, weakness, and excessive sweating, followed by a decrease in blood pressure.

More severe symptoms will begin to emerge as the septicemia progresses without proper treatment. These include the following:

  • Confusion or inability to think clearly
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Red dots that appear on the skin
  • Reduced urine volume
  • Inadequate blood flow (shock)

It’s crucial to get to the hospital right away if you or someone else is showing signs of septicemia. Never take a “wait and see” approach or try to treat the problem at home.

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

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Septicemia?

Septicemia is caused by an infection in another part of your body. This infection is typically severe. Many types of bacteria can lead to septicemia. The exact source of the infection often can’t be determined. The most common infections that lead to septicemia are:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Lung infections, such as pneumonia
  • Kidney infections
  • Infections in the abdominal area

Bacteria from these infections enter the bloodstream and multiply rapidly, causing immediate symptoms.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Septicemia?

There are many risk factors for Septicemia, such as:

  • Severe wounds or burns
  • Of very young or very old age
  • A compromised immune system, which can occur from diseases such as HIV or leukemia
  • A urinary or intravenous catheter
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Medical treatments that weaken your immune system, such as chemotherapy or steroid injections

People who are already in the hospital for something else, such as a surgery, are at a higher risk of developing septicemia. Secondary infections can occur while in the hospital. These infections are often more dangerous because the bacteria may already be resistant to antibiotics.

Diagnosis & treatment

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

How is Septicemia diagnosed?

Diagnosing septicemia and sepsis are some of the biggest challenges facing doctors. It can be difficult to find the exact cause of the infection. Diagnosis will usually involve a wide range of tests.

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and ask about your medical history. They’ll perform a physical examination to look for low blood pressure or body temperature. The doctor may also look for signs of conditions that more commonly occur along with septicemia. These conditions include pneumonia, meningitis, and cellulitis.

Your doctor may want to perform tests on multiple types of fluids to help confirm a bacterial infection. These may include the following:

  • Urine
  • Wound secretions and skin sores
  • Respiratory secretions
  • Blood

Your doctor may look for your cell and platelet counts and also order tests to analyze your blood clotting.

Your doctor may also look at the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood if septicemia is causing you to have breathing issues.

If signs of infection are not obvious, your doctor may order test to look more closely at specific organs and tissue, such as:

  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound

How is Septicemia treated?

Septicemia that has started to affect your organs or tissue function is a medical emergency. It must be treated at a hospital. Many people with septicemia are admitted to a hospital’s ICU for treatment and recovery.

Your treatment will depend on several factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Your overall health
  • The extent of your condition
  • Your tolerance for certain medications

Antibiotics are used to treat the bacterial infection that’s causing septicemia. There isn’t typically enough time to figure out which type of bacteria is causing the infection. Initial treatment will usually use “broad-spectrum” antibiotics. These are designed to work against a wide range of bacteria at once. A more focused antibiotic may be used if the specific bacterium is identified.

You may get fluids and other medications intravenously to maintain your blood pressure or to prevent blood clots from forming. You may also get oxygen through a mask or ventilator if you experience breathing issues as a result of septicemia.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

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

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you reduce your risk of Septicemia:

  • Bacterial infections are the underlying cause of septicemia. See a doctor right away if you think you have this condition. If your infection can be effectively treated with antibiotics in the early stages, you may be able to prevent the bacteria from entering your bloodstream. Parents can help protect children from septicemia by ensuring they stay up to date with their vaccinations.
  • If you already have a compromised immune system, the following precautions can help prevent septicemia:
    • Avoid smoking
    • Avoid illegal drugs
    • Eat a healthy diet
    • Exercise
    • Wash your hands regularly
    • Stay away from people who are sick

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.

Sources

Review Date: August 24, 2018 | Last Modified: August 24, 2018

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