Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is when bacteria proliferate in the blood.
It is potentially fatal disease. The immune system generally destroys the bacteria that enter the body in small number through skin lesions, mouth, or during brushing teeth. However, if they enter the blood flow in big number, from a significant contagious source, such as kidney infection, the blood can be poisoned. Sepsis can occur as complication from all severe infectious diseases.
The higher the risk in persons with weakened immune system suffering from diabetes, HIV, or as chemotherapy or immunosuppressive therapy consequence. Younger children and older persons are more susceptible to this infection, then drug addicts, who make way for the bacteria through contagious needles.
Sepsis symptoms are sudden, involving:
- high temperature or lower than 36
- fear and intensive shivering
- faster heartbeat
If untreated, bacteria may produce toxins that damage the blood vessels, causing drop of the blood pressure and severe damages to body tissues. In this serious condition, also called septic shock, there are additional symptoms:
- overall weakness, abdominal pain
- cold and pale hands and feet
- fast and short breathing
- delirium and loss of consciousness
In some patients, the bacteria can locate in the heart valves, especially if these are already damaged by endocarditis. In rare cases, sepsis conditions the lack of red blood cells involved in the blood clotting process, thus increasing the risk of excessive hemorrhaging and produces typical purple rash that does not change its color when pressed with a glass.
The cause of sepsis are:
- infection (viral, bacterial, fungal) in the lungs, stomach, kidneys or the blood
- drug-resistant bacteria
- weakened immune system (HIV, cancer therapies, transplant, diabetes)
Sepsis risk factors are:
- being in intensive care unit in hospital
- weakened immune system
- age (very young or very old)
- intravenous catheters or breathing tubes
Complications arise if sepsis progresses to severe or septic shock. In this case, the bacteria in the blood flow get to the vital organs, causing blood clots leading to failure of the organs. The mortality rate is rather high.