While anyone can be the victim of sepsis, those that have a lower immune system such as the elderly and young children or those with a poor immune system, are most at risk. It is caused most often from the bodies overwhelming aggressiveness to stop an infection from taking over. The most likely infections that can cause resulting sepsis are abdominal infection, bacteremia (bloodstream infection), pneumonia and kidney infections.
Recently, there has been an increase in cases of sepsis in the United States. The exact reason for this is unknown, but may be due to an overall weakened immune system or bacteria that has become drug resistant. There are many risk factors involved in sepsis including those individuals that are very young or old, are sick or in an intensive care unit, have poor immune systems or have wounds or injuries that could be the start of an infection.
As this condition worsens and is not treated, it can cause blood flow problems to the major organs in the body such as the kidneys, heart and even brain. It is likely that sepsis can cause blood clots near and around the organs and in the legs, arms, toes and fingers. Organ failure and sepsis shock are the major complications related to this condition, potentially ending in death. Additionally, those that have had sepsis and recover are at a higher risk for future infections.
The early stages of sepsis might include at least two of several symptoms such as fever that ranges over 101.3 F or below 95 F, respiratory rate that is higher than 20 breaths per minute, an infection or a heart rate that is higher than 90 beats per minute. For those individuals that may be suffering with severe sepsis, the patient might have one of several symptoms such as abdominal pain, difficulty in breathing, decrease in urination, severe change in mental status, heart pumping function change or decreased platelet count.
There are several ways that a physician might determine sepsis in a patient including blood testing to show evidence of infection, abnormal liver or kidney functions, electrolyte imbalances, issues with blood clotting or impaired oxygen levels. Additionally, a physician may look to urine samples for a urinary tract infection or bacteria, respiratory secretions such as mucus cough up or wounds that are secreting infected matter. In some cases, a physician may be able to detect the infection site using an x-ray, CT, MRI or even an ultrasound.
The best course of action in terms of sepsis treatment is fast action. The sooner treatment begins, the more likely the sepsis can be controlled. There are several medications that can be used to help treat the condition such as intense antibiotics given intravenously. A vasopressor medication could be given if the blood pressure remains very low. This medication would bring the blood pressure up by constricting blood vessels. Corticosteroids, insulin and pain killers may also be administered.