Sepsis symptoms can include having a below-normal temperature, a temperature of more than 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit (38.5 degrees C), chills, and skin rashes. Other sepsis symptoms include taking more than 20 breaths per minute, or hyperventilating. Severe sepsis can include confusion, which may come on suddenly, and a high heart rate. If a patient goes into sepsis shock, symptoms include dangerously low blood pressure.
Other sepsis symptoms include having skin that is warmer than usual. In addition, the patient may have a less-than-normal urine flow and may experience hallucinations. Ultimately, if the person goes into septic shock, important organs throughout the body may stop functioning correctly, leading to death.
Sepsis is an infection that causes a flood of bacteria in the bloodstream, ultimately resulting in tiny blood clots that the body is unable to break down. This infection often occurs when one part of the body, such as the bowels or kidneys, has been infected and the infection spreads. The infection may also occur in hospitalized patients via bedsores or surgical incisions.
Because of the blot clots, blood flow through the body can be impaired. This leads not only to the heart working harder than it should, it can lead to less oxygen flow to the brain and other organs. In addition, sepsis can result in tissue death, or gangrene. Almost half of those who have severe sepsis symptoms, or who go into septic shock, may die.
As with many other medical conditions, the elderly, those who have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and those who have acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are more likely to develop sepsis. In addition, the tendency to develop sepsis may run in families. Hospital patients are at a higher risk of developing sepsis. Intensive care patients are even more likely to get the infection than the general hospital population.
Sepsis testing methods include looking at blood for lower-than-normal levels of oxygen, clotting, or bacteria, although bacteria may not be evident if the patient is already taking antibiotics. Part of the testing process involves locating the source of the infection if the source is not readily identifiable. X-rays, ultrasounds or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to help pinpoint the infection's location.
Patients are treated with antibiotics as soon as sepsis symptoms become evident. Sepsis patients may be given intravenous fluids to help increase blood pressure or drugs that will do the same. Physicians may also prescribe painkillers for pain and insulin to address blood sugar issues. Surgery may be required to clean out or remove infected areas of the body.