Sepsis. It's a term that many are only vaguely familiar with, but it is a life-threatening medical condition that takes more than 270,000 American lives each year. Sepsis is preceded only by heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death in the United States.
Anyone who has an infection is at risk for sepsis. In fact, nearly 1.7 million adults will develop sepsis this year alone according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to death.
Learn more about this life-threatening condition, including its symptoms, and how to keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a serious complication from an infection. Any infection can cause sepsis from a bug bite to meningitis. Common infections that cause sepsis are:
- A urinary tract infection (UTI)
- An infection in the gastrointestinal tract (GI)
- A lung infection
Sepsis occurs when the infection triggers an extreme immune response throughout the body, a reaction that turns our body's natural ability to fight off infection against itself. The immune system starts attacking healthy cells. This can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death.
What are the symptoms of sepsis?
There can be many different signs of sepsis, including:
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- High heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- Clammy or sweaty skin
Can sepsis be treated?
Sepsis is a very serious condition that can move quickly throughout the body, causing serious damage. Research shows rapid treatment improves patient outcomes. Treatment will include antibiotics and, in some instances, intravenous (IV) fluids to maintain blood flow to organs. If sepsis progresses to organ failure, surgery may be required.
Who is at risk of developing sepsis?
Anyone can develop sepsis, but certain people may be at higher risk, including:
- Older adults (age 65 and older)
- Children under one year old
- Individuals with underlying health conditions, including:
- Comprised immune systems
- Chronic kidney or liver disease
- Lung disease
- Sepsis survivor
It's about TIME
The most important factor in sepsis recovery is getting immediate medical attention. If you think you or a loved one is septic, remember, it's all about TIME:
- Temperature – Is your body temperature higher or lower than normal?
- Infection – Do you have an infection or signs of an infection?
- Mental Decline – Are you confused, sleepy or hard to wake up?
- Extremely Ill – Do you feel extremely ill, or are you experiencing severe pain and discomfort?
Get immediate emergency medical care if you or a loved one have any of the above symptoms. Go to your nearest emergency department and tell the staff you think you or your loved one may be septic.
The Christ Hospital has two convenient emergency rooms locations in Greater Cincinnati: Just off Interstate 75 in Liberty Township and near Interstate 71 in Mt. Auburn.