What are the Causes of Sepsis?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Sepsis, also called systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), is a serious medical condition in which the body overreacts to an infection, resulting in widespread health problems. The different causes of sepsis are bacteria, fungus, parasites or viruses. These causes of sepsis result in infections that start in one area of the body and, due to the body’s response, spread to other areas. Some of the most common infection sites are the bladder, brain and kidneys. Other common sites include the liver, lungs and skin.

Different infections can cause different types of illnesses. Examples of illnesses that might lead to sepsis are peritonitis, pneumonia and cellulitis. Some people might acquire sepsis through intravenous (IV) catheters or surgical wounds. Other causes of sepsis include appendicitis, meningitis and urinary tract infection. In addition, children might develop sepsis as a result of osteomyelitis.

Although anyone might become afflicted with sepsis, there are those who are at more risk than others. Infants, individuals over 65 years of age and black people, especially black men, are among those with higher risk. Others at risk are those who have a weak immune system or a severe medical condition and those who are being hospitalized. Also, some people might acquire sepsis because of genetics.


Sepsis can be diagnosed through a variety of tests including those that analyze blood, urine and other bodily fluids. If any infectious causes of sepsis are not obvious, the doctor might perform other tests such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or x-ray. The discovery made through the tests determines the stage of sepsis that a person might have.

Generally, there are three stages of sepsis, ranging from mild to severe: sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock. An individual must have certain symptoms before being diagnosed with each stage of sepsis. As the illness progresses, the afflicted individual might experience organ failure or an extreme drop in blood pressure. It is possible to overcome sepsis, but about half the individuals who suffer severe sepsis or go into septic shock do not survive. The direness of this situation means that an individual with sepsis should seek treatment as soon as possible.

An individual who is diagnosed with sepsis will usually require a hospital stay. Typically, he will stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) and receive antibiotics to treat the infection. Some individuals might require IV fluids, corticosteroids or vasopressors. Organ failure can occur, so correspondingly appropriate treatment options, such as dialysis for kidney failure, might be necessary.


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Post 3

The viruses causing sepsis are found mostly in hospitals. I've had a relative get sepsis from the hospital and he died from sepsis complications. It also doesn't help that people at hospitals are there for surgeries and have open wounds, in addition to weakened immune systems. That's why I never stay at the hospital more than I need to. I try to go home as soon as I'm able to after an operation.

Post 2

@ankara-- Of course, the virus comes from outside, but it doesn't have to be introduced through a wound. It can happen during a surgery or blood transfusion and enter the bloodstream.

An infected abscess can cause sepsis if the abscess perforates and releases the infection into the bloodstream. Sepsis is due to a blood infection.

It can take longer for doctors to diagnose sepsis when something like this happens though. An open and infected wound makes it easy to question the possibility of sepsis, but when the cause of the infection is not seen, more tests are needed, such as a scan. If the abscess is in the colon for example, then a colonoscopy might have to be done to find the abscess and drain it.

Post 1

How does an internal abscess cause a septic infection? I thought that the virus has to enter through a cut on the skin.

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