Sepsis

Barb Green, Parish Nurse

Milton, WI

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to an infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. An old term for it is blood

poisoning. Sepsis can occur to anyone, at any time, from any type of infection, and can affect any part of the body. It can occur even after a minor infection.

Sepsis is caused by any type of infection anywhere in your body including the skin, lungs (pneumonia), urinary tract, abdomen (appendicitis) or anywhere else. When germs enter a person’s body and multiply, an infection occurs. This can cause illness and organ and tissue damage.

Anyone can get sepsis as a bad outcome from infection. The risk is higher in people with weakened immune systems, babies and very young children, elderly, people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer and kidney or liver disease, and people suffering from a severe burn or wound.

Symptoms of sepsis can be shivering, fever being very cold, extreme pain or general discomfort, pale or discolored skin, sleepiness, difficultly waking up, confusion, feeling like you might die and shortness of breath. Since sepsis is the result of an infection, symptoms can include infection signs (diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat, etc.) as well as ANY of the symptoms listed above.

Sepsis can be deadly. It kills more than 258,000 Americans each year and leaves survivors with life-changing after effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state there are over one million cases of sepsis each year. It is the ninth leading cause of disease-related deaths. Doctors diagnose it using physical findings like fever, increased heart and breathing rates, and lab tests. Since many symptoms are the same as in other conditions, sepsis is hard to diagnose in its early stages.

Death from sepsis can occur as quickly as 6 hours after symptoms appear. That is why it is so important that people be aware of this outcome. If you have any signs or symptoms of an infection or sepsis call your doctor

or go the ER immediately. This is a medical emergency! Tell the treating physician that you are concerned about sepsis. If you are continuing to feel worse or not getting better in the days after surgery, ask about sepsis. Sepsis is usually treated in the hospital by treating the infection, keeping vital organs working, and preventing a drop in blood pressure. Assistance breathing with a machine or kidney dialysis may be necessary. Sometimes surgery is required to remove tissue damaged by the infection.

Many people who have sepsis recover completely and their lives return to normal. Some people may experience permanent organ damage. For example, in someone who already has kidney problems, sepsis can lead to kidney failure that requires lifelong dialysis. Recovering from sepsis may be a long, slow process as a person may experience extreme weakness and fatigue; breathlessness; general body pains or aches; difficulty in moving; difficulty sleeping; weight loss; dry, itchy skin that may peel; brittle nails and hair loss. There may also be confusion, poor concentration and depression. The first step toward recovery includes rehabilitation. The purpose is to restore you back to your previous level of health. Begin rehab by building up activities slowly and resting when you are tired.

You can prevent sepsis by getting vaccinated, preventing infections by cleaning scrapes and wounds, and practicing good hygiene; by looking for signs of fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate; rash, confusion and disorientation when you have an infection. Hospitals are writing protocols that list the criteria for diagnosing sepsis in an effort to stop this deadly complication. Although this is

a sobering thing to read about, knowing the signs and getting immediate help may save your life.

To learn more go online to:

cdc.gov/sepsis or cdc.gov/cancer/prevent infections.

Information from Sepsis Fact Sheet developed by the CDC,

Sepsis Alliance and the Rory Staunton Foundation

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