What is Sepsis?

 

 According to Sepsis Alliance ( SA ), "Sepsis is a toxic response to infection that kills 258,000 Americans each year. It is a medical emergency that requires early detection  and prompt treatment for survival."

 

Sepsis is not an infection, nor is it blood poisoning, although some people still may call it that. Sepsis is your body's over response to an infection as it tries to protect you.

 

People don't die from infections. It is in fact, sepsis, that causes the death.  When you read about a celebrity or famous person who has "died from complications of pneumonia," or some other infection, that person died from sepsis. Anyone who has died as the result of an infection, died from sepsis.

It is important, especially in this flu season, that you be vigilant as to the signs and symptoms of sepsis if you get sick!

 

What happens when someone has sepsis?

 

When you get an infection, your body's immune system sends white blood cells to fight the bacteria, virus, fungus, or parasite that has invaded. Normally, when the infection is detected, more white blood cells are produced by the body, which is why a blood test that looks at your white blood cell count  (WBC count), might show a high or lower number of them.  If you have a blood test taken, ask what your WBC count is, what it means and tell your provider; "YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS"!

 

Sepsis occurs when something goes wrong with the immune system. As the infection spreads, toxins are released and they trigger an inflammatory response (swelling), called Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, or SIRS.

 

To have SIRS, you must have at least two of the following symptoms:

 

  • Abnormally high or low body temperature

  • Heart rate over 90 beats per minute

  • Breathing rate over 20 respirations per minute

  • A drop in carbon dioxide (CO2) in your blood, measured by blood test

  • Higher or lower than normal number of white blood cells in your blood, measured by blood test

 

Sepsis, if not treated successfully, can turn into severe sepsis and then septic shock. If it progresses to septic shock, you have a greater chance of dying!

 

If you have signs of at least one of the following, this means at least one organ is failing. This is severe sepsis: 

 

  • Significant drop in urine

  • Sudden change in mental state

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Abnormal heart beat

  • Drop in platelet count in blood, measured by blood test

  • Pain in the abdomen

 

 

Severe sepsis can progress to septic shock. This occurs when your blood pressure drops dangerously low, in addition to the earlier symptoms of severe sepsis.