Understanding the Dangers of Sepsis and How to Treat it
Sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention state that 1 in 3 people who died in a hospital had sepsis during that hospitalization. Sepsis is the body's extreme response to an infection and happens when an infection you already have triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Most cases of sepsis start before a patient goes to the hospital and without treatment, sepsis can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.
There are three stages of Sepsis. The initial stages of sepsis is the body's response to an infection, severe sepsis is when the infection causes organ damage and septic shock happens when your blood pressure drops dangerously low after an infection.
Symptoms of Sepsis
Understanding sepsis and knowing what to look for can make a vast difference in getting the health care you need in a timely manner. SEPSIS Alliance recommends using the acronym, TIME to know the signs of sepsis.
- Temperature - higher or lower than normal
- Infection -signs of infection
- Mental Decline - confusion, sleepiness, difficulty to rouse
- Extremely ill - severe pain, discomfort, shortness of breath
If you suspect you have sepsis, you should also pay attention to: - Fast, shallow breathing. - Feeling lightheaded. - Fever or hypothermia. - Low blood pressure. - Low energy or weakness. - Rapid heart rate. - Shivering or chills. - Warm or clammy skin for no specific reason.
Treatment and Recovery
To diagnose sepsis, doctors will perform blood, lab and imaging tests to find the cause of the infection and determine the best treatment options. Antibiotics are critical for treating life- threatening infections that can lead to sepsis. Supportive care includes maintaining blood flow to organs. As sepsis advances, some persons may need support with breathing or medical care for organ failure. Other treatment options for sepsis include surgery, to help remove the sources of the infection.
Most people recover from sepsis while others could continue to experience symptoms for weeks, months or even years. Post-sepsis syndrome can lead to tiredness, weakness, sleep difficulties, appetite
loss, frequent illnesses, mood swings, anxiety, depression, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Getting the care you need
You can take specific steps to reduce your risk of sepsis. If you have diabetes, lung or kidney diseases, talk to your health care provider about preventing infections that may cause sepsis. To lower your chances of sepsis:
- Stay up to date on your vaccinations.
- Consult your health care provider for recommended immunizations that can prevent certain infections.
- Ensure you always practice good hygiene by washing your hands.
- Keep any cuts clean and covered until they heal.
If you think you or your loved one has similar symptoms of sepsis and your health is not improving, seek medical attention immediately.
Knowing the symptoms of sepsis and when to see your healthcare provider is critical in receiving timely care, as most cases can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. For more information, visit
or contact MercyOne Clinton Emergency Care at
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