Most common infections are easily treated—think of the common cold, flu, or even pneumonia. However, sometimes complications arise from these illnesses—sepsis, and the more severe form, septic shock, are one such potentially life threatening complication of such infections. World Sepsis Day is tomorrow, September 13th–one in four people who contract sepsis will die , and others have long-term complications.
During sepsis, also called “blood poisoning” , inflammation arises from the response of the body to the infection . Very small blood clots form and blood cannot flow easily through the body—this leads to organs shutting down and a severe drop in blood pressure, called septic shock . Severe sepsis progresses into septic shock if untreated. Symptoms of sepsis are a high fever, heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute (tachycardia), increased respiratory rate, and suspected or confirmed infection—sepsis does not develop if an infection is not present . Severe sepsis may be indicated by breathing problems, low blood platelet counts (the element of blood that assists with clotting), significantly decreased urination, heart problems, chills, cognitive (thinking) problems, and skin colour changes and extreme weakness—eventually these symptoms will result in unconsciousness. Septic shock is indicated by the above symptoms, coupled with very low blood pressure.  A blood test is used to confirm a septic infection—urine tests, wound and mucus secretion tests can also be done to confirm the severity of the infection . Sepsis caught early may be treatable at home with antibiotics, but more severe cases will require admission to the hospital, and in the case of septic shock, the intensive care unit [ICU] to support a full recovery if organs are in failure .
While most people will fully recover from sepsis, some may sustain permanent organ damage, such as kidney failure in individuals that already have kidney problems . Most frequently the most severe long-term complications are seen in those who progressed into septic shock, and received treatment in intensive care . Sometimes, limbs may be amputated as a result of severe blood clots or wounds. Memory loss is also documented, and rehabilitation is sometimes required . Sepsis may result in post-traumatic stress reactions, such as sleep problems, nightmares, hallucinations and flashbacks, and loss of confidence and self-belief—cognitive impairment is most common in older patients .Extreme tiredness may also result, as well as severe muscle and joint pain .
The key is to be treated early for any infection, and get checked out if you have any concerns. The earlier all infections are treated decreases your chance of developing sepsis, and treating sepsis early will lead to improved outcomes for the patient.