Sepsis, a potentially deadly disease

In late August I wrote what I thought was the final report on my husband’s two bouts of sepsis (blood infection). He was doing great – walking without anymore difficulty, eating well again, and even getting to the point of driving his car and going places on his own. Unfortunately, he had a third recurrence of sepsis that started on September 26 and he’s been in the hospital ever since. The good news this time is that the doctors found the bacteria and the source of the infection. The bad news is it will take my husband much longer to recover than it did the first two times. In week four of his hospitalization he still is not walking, he needs to be fed through a tube in his nose, and his mental ability is still not back to normal.

Healthy Bob just weeks before his third recurrence of sepsis

Because the risk of sepsis is higher in seniors, I thought I’d provide all my senior friends who read this website with some information about this potentially life-threatening disease. I certainly knew nothing about it until if affected my husband. Thank you Healthline for this information.

What is sepsis?

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.

There are more than 1.5 million cases of sepsis each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source. This type of infection kills more than 250,000 Americans a year.

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.

Sepsis

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • a fever above 101ºF (38ºC) or a temperature below 96.8ºF (36ºC)
  • 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

Severe sepsis occurs when there’s organ failure. You must have one or more of the following signs to be diagnosed with severe sepsis:

Septic shock

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 close to 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).

What causes sepsis?

Any infection can trigger sepsis, but the following types of infections are more likely to cause sepsis:

According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the number of sepsis cases in the United States increases every year. Possible reasons for the increase include:

  • an aging population, because sepsis is more common in seniors
  • an increase in antibiotic resistance, which happens when an antibiotic loses its ability to resist or kill bacteria
  • an increase in the number of people with illnesses that weaken their immune systems
Who is at risk for sepsis?

Although some people have a higher risk of infection, anyone can get sepsis. People who are at risk include:

  • young children and seniors
  • people with weaker immune systems, such as those with HIV or those in chemotherapy treatment for cancer
  • people being treated in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • people exposed to invasive devices, such as intravenous catheters or breathing tubes

 

Comments

  1. Sandy Grant says:

    Madeline,

    Good to get the update and will keep you and Bob in my prayers. Sending lots of love to you both.

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