Sepsis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is an health condition that threatens the existence of life due to the body’s response to an infection. The immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight infections but instead of combating infections it causes inflammations, tissue damage and multiple organ failure. Sepsis are generally complications of contagious infections commonly caused by bacteria, fungi and viruses. Studies have proven that sepsis is one of the complications of COVID-19. In severe cases, sepsis can develop into septic shock which is an unhealthy drop in blood pressure that can eventually lead to death. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), sepsis was responsible for 20% of all global deaths in 2017 killing about 11 million people worldwide.

Who is at risk of developing sepsis?

Anyone can get sepsis but some people have higher chances of being affected than others. Sepsis usually start with a microbial infection commonly caused by bacteria, in some cases fungi and viruses can be responsible for it. The category of people who are at higher risk of developing sepsis include:

  • Older adults of age 65 or older
  • Children under the age of 1
  • People with severe health conditions such as cancer, asthma and kidney disease
  • Patients receiving treatment in intensive care unit
  • People who are immunocompromised such as those with HIV and AIDS, pneumonia and those using corticosteroids
  • Pregnant women
  • People being treated with invasive devices such as breathing tubes and intravenous catheter

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

Sepsis can be placed into 3 categories namely mild sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock. Mild sepsis is less severe and people with it may experience fever, higher heart rate, low body temperature and increased breathe rate. When you receive a quality medical care at this stage the disease may not progress into severe sepsis.
Severe sepsis is characterized by organ failure and the symptoms include difficulty in breathing, skin discoloration, oliguria (low urine volume), mental impairment, diarrhoea, fatigue, lost of consciousness, irregular heart rate and severe body pains. Septic shock is the third category of sepsis and it is caused by a dangerous and unhealthy drop in blood pressure that often result into death.

How is sepsis diagnosed?

Sepsis is usually diagnosed based on the severity of the infection. To diagnose this disease your doctor will order for your blood test so as to detect signs of infections, problems with blood clotting, low oxygen availability, electrolyte disorder, liver and kidney dysfunction. Your doctor may also order for urine test, wound secretion test and sputum test depending on the symptoms you are experiencing and the results of your blood test.
The urine test is used to screen for pathogenic bacteria that may cause urinary tract infection in the Patient. Wound secretion test involves taking a sample from the wound and subjecting it to laboratory analysis in order to detect microbial pathogens causing the infection and conducting an antibiotic sensitivity test so as to know the best antibiotics that will treat the infection. The sputum test is the laboratory test that is used to determine the microorganism causing the infection by using the mucus that is coughed out by the patient.
If the above test does not accurately detect the cause of the infection, then your doctor may order for imaging test such as X-rays, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging MRI) test and computerized demography in order to produce a detailed image of the site of infection.

How can sepsis be treated?

Sepsis is a chronic health condition that demands urgent medical care. However, it can results into septic shock and cause death if not given medical care at early stage.
Your doctor will recommend varieties of medications to treat sepsis and they include:

  • Antibiotics: broad-spectrum antibiotics are usually used at the beginning of treatment so as to destroy varieties of bacteria that are suspected to cause infection and this antibiotics are administered intravenously. Getting the broad spectrum antibiotics intravenously will allow the drug to get into your bloodstream quicker and make it work faster. Your doctor will recommend antibiotics that target the specific bacteria that is responsible for the infection as soon as laboratory tests reveal the detailed causative agent of the disease.
  • Corticosteroids: they are groups of medicines that are used to reduce inflammations and treat autoimmune diseases.
  • Vasopressors medications: this are medications that your doctor recommends when your blood pressure is too low . Vasopressors helps to elevate your blood pressure to a healthy level.
  • Painkillers: these are drugs that are recommended to relieve chronic pains and body ache
  • Insulin: it refers to medications that are used to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood

In severe cases of sepsis, patient are admitted into intensive care unit and kept on ventilators so as to enhance their survival. If the kidney of the patients are seriously affected they will need dialysis to eliminate waste and excess fluid from their blood by using a machine. Surgery may be required to remove infected tissues and clean abscesses.

How can sepsis be prevented?

Sepsis are complications of infectious diseases and they can only be prevented by taking precautionary measures that reduce the spread of infections. The precautionary measures include:

  • Vaccination: getting vaccines is one of the effective ways of preventing the spread of many infections. To prevent sepsis, you should get vaccinated against pneumonia, flu and other infectious diseases.
  • Maintain good wound care, practice regular handwashing with soap and water, bath regularly and maintain other hygienic practices so as to prevent infections
  • If you develop any signs of infection seek immediate medical care to prevent complications that can arise from untreated infections.

About Adebayo Taiwo

Adebayo Taiwo hails from Africa. He's a Microbiologist , Health Safety and Environment Specialist and a Health Advisor who is concerned about the well-being and healthy lifestyle of people around the globe. The health of my people is my pride.

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