Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by your body’s response to an infection. Your immune system protects you from many illnesses and infections, but it’s also possible for it to go into overdrive in response to an infection.
Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead. Severe cases of sepsis can lead to septic shock , which is a medical emergency.
What are the symptoms of sepsis?
There are three stages of sepsis: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. Sepsis can happen while you’re still in the hospital recovering from a procedure, but this isn’t always the case. It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the below symptoms. The earlier you seek treatment, the greater your chances of survival.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- a fever above 101ºF or a temperature below 96.8ºF
- heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
- breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
- probable or confirmed infection
You must have two of these symptoms before a doctor can diagnose sepsis.
Severe sepsis occurs when there’s organ failure. You must have one or more of the following signs to be diagnosed with severe sepsis:
- patches of discolored skin
- decreased urination
- changes in mental ability
- low platelet (blood clotting cells) count
- problems breathing
- abnormal heart functions
- chills due to fall in body temperature
- extreme weakness
Symptoms of septic shock include the symptoms of severe sepsis, plus a very low blood pressure .
The serious effects of sepsis
Although sepsis is potentially life-threatening, the illness ranges from mild to severe. There's a higher rate of recovery in mild cases. Septic shock has a 50 percent mortality rate, according to the Mayo Clinic . Having a case of severe sepsis increases your risk of a future infection.
Severe sepsis or septic shock can also cause complications. Small blood clots can form throughout your body. These clots block the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs and other parts of your body. This increases the risk of organ failure and tissue death ( gangrene ).