Sepsis kills more than 258,000 American each year and leaves thousands of survivors often with life altering changes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 1 million cases of sepsis each year, and it is the ninth leading cause of disease-related deaths.
Sepsis is a syndrome or constellation of symptoms that occur when an infection spreads from one location throughout the body. The body will react in a predictable manner to the spread of infection. The body’s immune response initially fights the infection, but ultimately becomes dysfunctional and we begin to harm ourselves. The infection in our blood vessels, and our response to them, causes vessels to dilate and our blood pressure to drop. This is referred to as Septic Shock. Further immune dysfunction causes clotting in small blood vessels and a decrease of blood and oxygen flow to organs, resulting in anaerobic metabolism and acid accumulation. Without adequate blood pressure and oxygen, organs begin to malfunction. This evolves into Septic Shock with Organ Dysfunction. After some time, the lungs are no longer able to compensate for the acid accumulation resulting in Septic Shock with Organ Dysfunction and Respiratory Failure.
What symptoms should I watch for an infection that may be spreading throughout the body?
- Fever or low body temperature with chills or shaking
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Urinating less or not at all
- Difficulty breathing, dizziness, or weakness
- A change in mental status i.e. confusion, loss of consciousness, or seizures
What increases my risk for complications from an infection?
- Extremes of age – being very young or very old
- Chronic conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart failure, urinary catheter
- A weakened immune system related to a chronic condition or medication
- Recent surgery or dental procedure
- Severe injuries, such as large burns
Preventing infections includes good personal hygiene, clean surgical incisions, taking antibiotics as prescribed, healthy eating, vaccinations, and controlling chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Seek medical care if you are being treated for an infection but continue to get worse, such as: fever, fast heart rate, feel weak or faint; urinating less; or shortness of breath.
When time is of the essence, immediate diagnosis and treatment is lifesaving. In those unfortunate moments when you or a loved one is in need of emergency medicine, it’s comforting to know that Portneuf Medical Center’s Emergency Physicians are well qualified to deal with even the most complex medical concerns in a timely and specialized manner.