is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Sepsis occurs when chemicals released 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.
If Sepsis progresses to septic Shock, blood pressure drops dramatically, which may lead to death.
Anyone can develop Sepsis, but it’s most common and most dangerous in older adults or those with weakened immune systems. Early treatment of Sepsis, usually with antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous Fluids, improves chances for survival.
Many doctors view Sepsis as a three-stage syndrome, starting with Sepsis and progressing through severe Sepsis to septic Shock. The goal is to treat Sepsis during its mild stage, before it becomes more dangerous.
To be diagnosed with Sepsis, you must exhibit at least two of the following symptoms:
Your diagnosis will be upgraded to severe Sepsis if you also exhibit at least one of the following signs and symptoms, which indicate an organ may be failing:
To be diagnosed with septic Shock, you must have the signs and symptoms of severe Sepsis — plus extremely low blood pressure that doesn’t adequately respond to simple Fluid replacement.
While any type of infection — bacterial, viral or fungal — can lead to Sepsis, the most likely varieties include:
Bloodstream infection (bacteremia)
The incidence of Sepsis appears to be increasing. The causes of this increase may include:
People are living longer, which is swelling the ranks of the highest risk age group — people older than 65.
Many types of bacteria can resist the effects of antibiotics that once killed them. These antibiotic-resistant bacteria are often the root cause of the infections that trigger Sepsis.
Weakened immune systems.
More Americans are living with weakened immune systems, caused by HIV, Cancer treatments or transplant drugs.
Sepsis is more common and more dangerous if you:
Sepsis ranges from less to more severe. As Sepsis worsens, blood flow to vital organs, such as your brain, heart and kidneys, becomes impaired. Sepsis can also cause blood clots to form in your organs and in your arms, legs, fingers and toes — leading to varying degrees of organ failure and tissue death (Gangrene).
Most people recover from mild Sepsis, but the mortality rate for septic Shock is nearly 50 percent. Also, an episode of severe Sepsis may place you at higher risk of future infections.
TREATMENTS AND DRUGS
Early, aggressive treatment boosts your chances of surviving Sepsis. People with severe Sepsis require close monitoring and treatment in a hospital intensive care unit. If you have severe Sepsis or septic Shock, lifesaving measures may be needed to stabilize breathing and heart function.
A number of medications are used in treating Sepsis. They include:
Treatment with antibiotics begins immediately — even before the infectious agent is identified. Initially you’ll receive broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are effective against a variety of bacteria. The antibiotics are administered intravenously (IV).
After learning the results of blood tests, your doctor may switch to a different antibiotic that’s more appropriate against the particular bacteria causing the infection.
If your blood pressure remains too low even after receiving intravenous Fluids, you may be given a vasopressor medication, which constricts blood vessels and helps to increase blood pressure.
Other medications you may receive include low doses of corticosteroids, insulin to help maintain stable blood sugar levels, drugs that modify the immune system responses, and painkillers or sedatives.
People with severe Sepsis usually receive supportive care including oxygen and large amounts of intravenous Fluids. Depending on your condition, you may need to have a machine help you breathe or another to provide dialysis for kidney failure.
Surgery may be needed to remove sources of infection, such as collections of pus (abscesses).
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