Sepsis is a rare but serious complication of an infection which is life-threatening in most cases. It manifests itself when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger inflammatory responses all over the body. This inflammation is the source of damage of multiple organ systems and death finally. Lungs, pelvis, urinary tract and abdomen are the most common infection sites.
Sepsis is highly prevalent in low- and middle-income countries and contributes vastly towards maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Globally, it affects almost 30 million people every year leading to around 6 million deaths.
Sepsis usually occurs when the patient is already hospitalized undergoing treatment for some other problem. Individuals who underwent a surgery recently, those who had a urinary catheter fitted or patients hospitalized for prolonged periods are usually liable to sepsis. While many infections can contribute towards this disease, four infections that are most-commonly associated with sepsis include:
Individuals at a Greater Risk
Our immune systems play a pivotal role in limiting infections to their place of origin and white blood cells destroy the germs causing infection. Our body responds to this infection by means of inflammation such as tissue swelling which stops the spreading of the infection. People with a weak immune system or those having severe infection can be majorly affected as it spreads through blood to other parts of the body. This can obstruct blood flow dropping blood pressure levels to dangerously low ones that can prevent oxygen supply to all organs and tissues, leading to death too!
While anyone can get an infection and any infection can lead to sepsis, certain categories of people are at an increased risk:
There is no one symptom that can be singled out as the reason for sepsis. It usually is a combination of various symptoms such as high heart rate, confusion or disorientation, rapid breathing, chill and shivering due to high temperature (fever) or low body temperature, loss of consciousness, slurred speech, nausea/vomiting and severe muscle pain.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you were down with an infection recently and you doubt symptoms of sepsis, please contact your physician immediately. The doctor checks the body temperature, breathing rate and heart rate to verify sepsis. He/she might request for few other tests to be taken in some cases.
Once confirmed, the doctor admits the patient to the hospital and orders for the ‘sepsis six’ that includes three tests and three treatments. Tests include taking blood culture (to identify the bacteria causing the condition), blood sample and monitoring urine output. Treatments include giving antibiotics, intravenous fluids and oxygen (when levels are low).
As this condition causes damage and problems to vital organs, individuals with serious sepsis are likely to be very ill and the results can be fatal too! Even while recovering some people might experience lethargy, excessive tiredness, muscle weakness, swollen limbs, joint pain and chest pain. In most cases, the condition is treatable and leads to a full recovery with no long-term consequences attached to it.
Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.