What is Septicemic Shock?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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Septicemic shock, also known as septic shock, is a medical emergency that can occur with a severe bacterial, fungal, or, sometimes, viral infection of the blood. Some people may be at increased risk for developing septicemic shock, especially those with diabetes, disorders that suppress the immune system, certain kinds of cancer, internal injuries, or diseases of the intestines, biliary system, or genitourinary tract. Septic shock is considered life threatening, and typically causes death in as many as 60% of its victims. Symptoms are generally immediate and severe and can include nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, mental confusion, a red rash that covers the whole body, decreased urination or absent urination, and raised white blood cell count. The immune system may respond with widespread inflammation, which can exacerbate the organ damage done by the infection. Septic shock usually requires immediate, intensive medical care.

The often deadly condition known as septicemic shock typically occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream. Fungi and viruses can also enter the bloodstream and cause this condition, though this happens more rarely. Children, the elderly, and people who are already ill are considered most vulnerable to septic shock.


People who suffer from diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or diseases of the intestines may be at an increased risk for septicemic shock. Disorders of the biliary system, urinary tract, or reproductive system can increase the risk of septicemic shock. People with leukemia or lymphoma may be more likely to suffer septic shock. People who use catheters or stents for long periods of time may be at increased risk for blood infection, as can those who have recently used steroid drugs, recently undergone surgery, recently recovered from an infection, or recently suffered an internal injury.

Severe bacterial infections of the bloodstream can lower blood pressure and damage multiple organs. The body's immune response often causes severe, widespread inflammation that can damage organs further. Symptoms of blood infection generally include nausea, vomiting, decreased urination, lack of urination, whole-body rash, mental distress or confusion, rapid heart rate, and rapid breathing. As the blood infection progresses into septicemic shock, blood pressure falls, heart palpitations can occur, and body temperature can either rise or fall dangerously. The extremities of a person in septic shock may become pale in color and cold to the touch.

About 60% of those who develop septicemic shock will die from it. Early and aggressive treatment is considered crucial for survival. Oxygen therapy and intravenous antibiotics are typically administered. Many cases of septicemic shock can be prevented with proper wound hygiene, prompt treatment of infection, and appropriate use of vaccinations.


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I have a yeast infection that is not going away. Can I go into septic shock from that?

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