What are sepsis and septic shock?
Sepsis is when germs (bacteria) get into your bloodstream and trigger a serious body-wide reaction. When sepsis is severe, one or more of your organs may shut down. For example, your kidneys may stop making urine or your lungs may stop bringing in oxygen.
Septic shock is the most dangerous kind of sepsis. You have very low blood pressure (shock Shock Shock is a medical emergency caused by your organs not getting enough blood and oxygen. It has nothing to do with the "shock" we feel when something scares or upsets us. When your body can't... read more ), and many of your organs shut down. Septic shock can be fatal.
Sepsis is caused by a bacterial infection that spreads to your bloodstream
People with a weakened immune system or certain diseases, such as diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or cirrhosis of the liver Cirrhosis of the Liver Your liver is a football-sized organ on the right side of your belly, just below your ribs. It has many important jobs: To make a liquid (bile) that helps your body digest fat To process nutrients... read more , are more likely to get sepsis
Doctors need to treat sepsis and septic shock as soon as possible with antibiotics and lots of IV fluids (directly into your vein)
What causes sepsis?
Sepsis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. The infection can start in any part of your body, including your:
Bladder or kidneys
Sometimes, the bacteria get in through an IV catheter used to give fluids and medicine.
If the infection spreads to your bloodstream and causes your body to react, you have sepsis.
The most dangerous kinds of bacteria that cause sepsis are usually found in hospitals.
What are the symptoms of sepsis and septic shock?
Usually sepsis causes a high fever. You may also have:
Shaking, chills, and weakness
Fast heart rate
You may also have symptoms of the infection that caused your sepsis. For example, if you have a lung infection, you may have a cough and trouble breathing.
If you have septic shock, you have low blood pressure that doesn’t get better with treatment. You may also have:
Confusion and weakness
Skin that's hot to the touch
A fast, pounding pulse
Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Some people with septic shock will die from it.
How can doctors tell if I have sepsis?
At first, sepsis can be hard to diagnose. Doctors can tell you have sepsis based on your symptoms and by doing blood tests to look for bacteria. They will also do blood tests to see how your organs are working. If it's not clear where the infection came from, they may also do imaging tests:
How do doctors treat sepsis?
Doctors treat sepsis in the hospital right away with antibiotics and fluids given through a vein (IV) . If you have septic shock, doctors may also:
Give you drugs to keep your blood pressure up
Give you oxygen to help you breathe or even put you on a breathing machine
Put you on a kidney dialysis machine
Take out whatever is causing the infection—such as an infected IV line
Do surgery to drain pus or take out infected tissue
If you have sepsis, the chances of getting better and avoiding severe sepsis and septic shock are higher the earlier you get treatment. Doctors follow detailed routines to give the right treatment as fast as possible.