January 22, 2018
By Dr. Tessa Rohrberg, MD
What is sepsis? You may have heard the medical community use this word more lately as there has been a national drive to educate about and recognize sepsis. So, what exactly is sepsis and why should you care?
Sepsis occurs when the body has an extreme immune reaction to an infection you already have. This could be a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, such as a urinary tract infection or influenza. Almost any infection could lead to sepsis if it is not treated. The inflammatory response that sepsis produces progresses quickly to cause tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the United States, and 250,000 of these people will die. It is important to recognize the signs of sepsis and seek medical care emergently.
The signs of sepsis are not the same for everyone but usually include more than one of the following: low blood pressure, fast heart rate, fevers and chills, increased rate of breathing or shortness of breath, clammy or sweaty skin, abnormal pain or discomfort, and confusion or changes in mentation.
Some people are at higher risk of developing sepsis; these include those older than age 65 or younger than age 1, people with compromised immune systems, or those with chronic medical conditions, such as cancer, lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease.
By treating and managing your chronic medical conditions, practicing good hygiene and handwashing, and getting recommended vaccines, you can help to prevent infections and sepsis. Because sepsis can be life threatening, it is important to recognize the signs and seek emergent medical care if you have an infection that is not getting better or seems to be getting worse.
Learn more about sepsis
Editor's Note: This article was submitted by William Newton Hospital for the Cowley CourierTraveler Regional Medical Guide published January 27, 2018.