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What is Sepsis?
Health 27.09.19 

What is Sepsis?

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness that is caused by the body’s response to an infection. Sepsis kills 52,000 people in the UK alone every year. Sepsis is often discovered too late as it can be caused from injuries or illnesses that do not seem to be life-threatening – such as a small cut that can become infected. The disease occurs when your immune system protects you from many illnesses and infections and goes into overdrive in response to an infection.

Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead. Severe cases of sepsis can lead to septic shock, which is a medical emergency.

What Are The Symptoms of Sepsis?

There are three stages of sepsis: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. It is recommended that you visit a doctor if you are suffering from two of more of the symptoms below:

  • A temperature 38ºC or a temperature below 36ºC
  • A heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
  • Feeling out of breath/breathing very heavily
  • An infection

Severe Sepsis

Severe sepsis occurs when the symptoms of sepsis cause organ failure. You must have one or more of the following signs to be diagnosed with severe sepsis:

  • Areas of discoloured skin
  • Reduced need to urinate
  • Low platelet (blood clotting cells) count
  • Breathing problems
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Significant fall in body temperature
  • Unconsciousness or extreme weakness
  • Septic shock (the symptoms of severe Sepsis plus low blood pressure)

Potentially Life-threatening Symptoms of Sepsis

Although sepsis is potentially life-threatening, the illness ranges from mild to severe. The rate of recovery is higher in mild cases.

If a patient has Septic shock their chance of survival reduces to 50%. Having a case of severe sepsis increases your risk of a future infection.

Severe sepsis or septic shock can also cause complications. Small blood clots can form throughout your body. These clots block the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs and other parts of your body. This increases the risk of organ failure and tissue death (gangrene).

What Causes Sepsis?

Any infection can trigger sepsis, but the following types of infections are more likely to cause sepsis:

  • Pneumonia
  • Abdominal infection
  • Kidney infection
  • Bloodstream infection

How is Sepsis Treated?

Sepsis can quickly progress to septic shock and death if it’s left untreated, so it is vital to visit your doctor if you are suffering from two or more of the symptoms. Doctors use a number of medications to treat sepsis, including:

  • Antibiotics via IV to fight infection
  • Vasoactive medications to increase blood pressure
  • Insulin to stabilize blood sugar
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Painkillers
  • IV fluids and a respirator for breathing (for severe Sepsis)
  • Dialysis might be necessary if the kidneys are affected

In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the source of an infection. This includes draining a pus-filled abscess or removing infected tissue.

Can you Recover from Sepsis?

Your recovery from sepsis depends on the severity of your condition and any preexisting conditions you might have. Many people who survive will recover completely. However, others will report lasting effects.

The UK Sepsis Trust says it can take up to 18 months before survivors start to feel like their normal self. The Sepsis Alliance says that around 50 percent of sepsis survivors deal with post-sepsis syndrome (PSS). The alliance says this condition includes long-term effects such as:

  • Damaged organs
  • Insomnia
  • Disabling muscle and joint pains
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lowered cognitive functioning
  • Severe cases of sepsis can lead to death.

Sepsis Prevention

Taking steps to prevent the spread of infection can reduce your risk of developing sepsis. These include:

  • Getting vaccinations
  • Practicing good hygiene and ensuring that you always take care of open wounds that could potentially become infected
  • Getting immediate care if you develop signs of infection. The sooner you get treatment, the better the outcome

Who Are RXLive?

This article was written by the pharmaceutical experts at RXLive online pharmacy, who post repeat prescriptions to you for free! You may wish to consider using services such as RXLive, which provide a free delivery service to ensure you never miss your medication again and have a dedicated pharmacist ready to chat at all times. You can sign-up to the service here – completely free!


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