Sepsis is a severe condition that occurs when your body’s defenses against an infection (bacterial, fungal, or viral) become too strong, triggering widespread inflammation in the body. The overactive immune response leads to the overproduction of chemicals that can harm blood vessels, reduce blood volume, decrease heart rate, and damage organs. When this autoimmune reaction becomes severe, it can lead to death. Sepsis, therefore, is a serious medical issue that needs to be recognized and dealt with right away to lower the risk of organ failure and death.
How does the body go into Sepsis?
An infection can start from injuries that don’t seem serious, like a small cut on the arm or anywhere on the body. These injuries can allow bacteria and other germs to enter your body’s tissues or bloodstream. The immune system’s job is to find these invaders, mount a defense by sending white blood cells to the site, and get rid of the harmful substances. But there are times when this defense system fails to perform, causing the infection to spread. As a result, the infection worsens, making the immune system work harder by releasing more chemicals that fight infections, thus overwhelming the body and causing it to crash.
Sepsis happens when an illness that was already there gets out of hand, hurting organs and possibly killing the person. “Septic shock” is the critical stage when a person has low blood pressure, organs that need oxygen aren’t getting enough of it, and their life is in immediate danger. This shows how important it is to quickly diagnose and treat Sepsis to lower the risk of serious consequences and death.
How are normal body functions affected by Sepsis?
Because it causes a systemic inflammatory reaction, Sepsis can seriously mess up how the body normally works. Here’s how Sepsis affects different parts of the body:
- Immune System: Sepsis starts with an illness, and the immune system is triggered to fight off the pathogens trying to get in. In Sepsis, on the other hand, the immune reaction is thrown off. It might not get rid of the infection, but it might cause too much inflammation all over the body, which can hurt healthy cells.
- Circulatory System: Sepsis can widen blood veins, letting more blood flow through them. This causes blood to leak into the tissues around them. This lowers blood pressure and limits the flow of blood to organs. In the worst cases, it can get worse and turn into septic shock, where the blood pressure drops to levels that are too low to be safe, and important organs stop working.
- Respiratory System: Sepsis can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which makes the lungs very swollen and painful. This makes breathing hard because fluid builds up in the air sacs, blocking oxygen exchange.
- Cardiovascular System: Sepsis can make it harder for the heart to pump blood well. This lowers the heart’s function and can cause arrhythmias in some cases.
- Kidneys: Sepsis can cause swelling and less blood flow to the kidneys, resulting in acute kidney damage (AKI). If the kidneys don’t remove waste and extra water from the body, electrolyte changes and a buildup of toxins can happen.
- Liver: Sepsis can damage the liver, making it less able to get rid of toxins and make proteins that the body needs. This can make it hard for blood to clot and slow down the metabolism.
- Coagulation: Sepsis can make it hard for blood to clot and flow properly. Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) happens when the body’s clotting and anti-clotting systems are compromised. This can cause a lot of clots to form and possible bleeding at the same time.
- Metabolic: Sepsis can mess up the body’s metabolic processes, which can cause high blood sugar, higher metabolic demands, and a catabolic state in which the body breaks down its cells for energy.
- Central Nervous System: Because Sepsis causes inflammation and less oxygen to the brain, it can lead to memory loss, anxiety, or a change in mental state.
- Gastrointestinal System: Sepsis can cause problems with the digestive system, such as stomach pain, sickness, vomiting, and bowel ischemia.
Which infections usually cause Sepsis?
Sepsis can result from many infections if they are not treated in a timely or appropriate manner, or when the body’s immune system doesn’t work right. The following are some common illnesses and the organs they target that can lead to Sepsis:
- Pneumonia: Lungs and respiratory tract
- UTIs: Bladder, uterus, or kidneys
- Appendicitis, Diverticulitis, or Peritonitis: Abdomen
- Cellulitis and abscesses: Skin and Soft tissues
- Osteomyelitis or Septic Arthritis: Bones and Joints
- Bloodstream Infections
- Infections After Surgery
- Gastrointestinal Infections like gastroenteritis
- Infections of the Reproductive Tract
- Respiratory Infections
- Neurological infections
What are the Symptoms of Sepsis?
Common signs of Sepsis include:
- Hypothermia if your body temperature is below 95°F (35°C). You have a fever if your body temperature is above 101°F (38.3°C).
- A rapid heart rate, usually more than 90 beats per minute.
- Hyperventilation, i.e., rapid breathing, means taking more breaths per minute, usually more than 20.
- Disorientation, confusion, dizziness
- Chills and shivering
- Trouble staying awake.
- Extreme Weakness: Extreme tiredness, drowsiness, or trouble moving.
- Shortness of Breath: Having trouble breathing, breathing quickly, or breathing hard.
- Low Blood Pressure: A drop in blood pressure that makes you feel dizzy or faint.
- Less Urine Output: Less urine output could mean that the kidneys aren’t working right.
- Changes in the skin: The skin may become pale or turn blue.
- Irregular heartbeats
- Digestive tract symptoms include feeling sick, throwing up, having diarrhea, and having pain in the abdomen.
- Speaking problems: slurred words or talking that doesn’t make sense.
- Pain or Discomfort: Pain that is felt all over, like in the muscles or joints, or is limited to the infection site.
- Edema means swelling because of too much fluid in the tissues.
- Low Oxygen Levels
What are the stages of Sepsis?
There are different stages of Sepsis based on how severe it is, from infection and bacteremia to Sepsis, severe Sepsis, and septic shock.
- Sepsis: Sepsis is characterized by fever, a fast heart rate, and signs of an infection at the source, like a wound or lung infection. The body’s immune system is stimulated, and inflammation happens all over. This stage can often be overcome if it is found and handled quickly.
- Severe Sepsis: Sepsis is considered severe when it worsens and affects the operation of one or more organs. At this point, you might show signs of organ failure, like having trouble breathing, a change in mental state, less urine output, and irregular organ function. The treatment is urgent at this point and may include methods like mechanical breathing or dialysis to help the organs work better.
- Septic Shock: The most critical and life-threatening stage of Sepsis is septic shock. It happens when the body’s response to an infection is so strong that it lowers blood pressure so much that important organs don’t get enough blood, which causes them to fail. In septic shock, treatment is an emergency that may include strong resuscitation means, such as giving fluids through an IV, using blood thinners to raise blood pressure, and aiding failing organs.
How is Sepsis Diagnosed?
Sepsis is diagnosed through clinical examination, medical history, and diagnostic procedures. Our healthcare experts use the following approaches to diagnose Sepsis:
- Healthcare specialists assess the patient’s clinical condition. They search for systemic infection and sepsis symptoms, including fever, high heart rate, fast breathing, and altered mental status. A complete physical examination assesses vital signs, organ function, and localized infection, such as wounds or rashes.
- Low blood pressure, irregular heart and lung sounds, and skin discoloration may indicate Sepsis.
- Laboratory testing: Sepsis diagnosis relies on blood and other lab testing. Tests include:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): Sepsis can raise or lower white blood cell counts.
- Blood cultures: To identify the infectious pathogen.
- Inflammatory markers: CRP and procalcitonin rise with infection and inflammation.
- Lactate Levels: Sepsis-related tissue hypoxia may cause elevated blood lactate levels.
- Arterial Blood Gas (ABG): Measures oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid-base balance.
- Coagulation Profile: May show aberrant clotting factors in Sepsis.
- Imaging Studies: Chest X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans may be used to locate the infection and evaluate organ function.
- Functional assessments include urine output, oxygen saturation, and liver and kidney function testing.
- The Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) Score assesses organ dysfunction and sepsis severity.
How is Sepsis treated?
Sepsis treatment requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. Treatment at Novomed includes a cause-finding approach to help treat the infection/illness at its roots and provide adequate medical interventions. Sepsis treatment involves the following protocols:
- Antibiotics: Ideally, antibiotic therapy should begin within one hour of diagnosis and transition from intravenous to oral pills as the condition improves. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are used initially until the infection is identified, progressing towards focused antibiotics.
- IV Fluids: IV fluids maintain organ blood flow and prevent severe blood pressure drops to avoid organ failures.
- Intravenous vasopressor drugs: Constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure to a safe level if blood pressure remains severely low despite fluids.
- Organ-supporting Approach: Sepsis treatments, including dialysis for kidney failure and mechanical ventilation for respiratory failure, will be offered if organ problems occur.
- Surgery: Severe Sepsis or septic shock may require surgery to remove damaged tissue.
How can Sepsis be prevented?
Here are proactive measures to reduce the risk of Sepsis:
- Maintaining Proper Hygiene: Consistently practicing good hygiene encompasses thorough and frequent handwashing.
- Wound Care: Ensuring that any cuts or wounds are kept clean and adequately covered until they fully heal.
- Vaccination Compliance: Staying current with recommended vaccines as a preventive measure.
- Chronic Condition Management: Regularly seeking medical care and following prescribed treatments for chronic health conditions.
- Timely Infection Response: Seeking immediate medical attention when you suspect an infection, thereby addressing potential sources of Sepsis at an early stage.
Novomed is committed to treating Sepsis in a way that is whole and focused on the patient. Our unwavering commitment to taking care of the current medical needs and long-term health of patients with Sepsis sets a very high standard for care. Our experts ensure that patients get full support and individualized care as they heal because we know it can have long-lasting effects on the body, mind, and emotions. Novomed’s patient-centered care philosophy sets the greatest standards for healthcare and builds trust in our dedication to managing Sepsis.
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