Do You Know What Exactly Sepsis Is?
There are 750,000 cases of sepsis in India every year. The number of deaths due to sepsis every year is more than that caused by breast and prostrate cancer combined. And, yet, not many people know about this potentially life threatening medical condition.
In this blog, we shall explore what sepsis is and what we need to know about it.
When the human body’s response to infection results in the injury of its own tissues and organs, it is known as sepsis. More often than not, the infection in question is bacterial. Staphylococci are considered to cause more than 50% of sepsis cases. Other bacteria include Streptococcus pyogenes, Escherichia Coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella. However, some other infections can also play havoc with the body, including fungal, viral or parasitic. For instance, fungal sepsis occurs due to complications in Invasive Candidiasis, an infection caused by the Candida species of yeast. Patients in hospitals, especially in ICUs, are most vulnerable to sepsis.
Primary infections usually start in the brain, lungs, skin, urinary tract and abdomen. But it is the bacterial infections in the lungs from where most (almost 50%) of the sepsis cases emerge. Age has nothing to do with sepsis as it has been found across people of varying ages. The major risk factor is a weak immune system due to diseases such as cancer, diabetes or external factors such as burns or a major trauma.
The symptoms for sepsis include increased heart rate and breathing rate, fever and confusion. Sometimes, the symptoms may not be seen, in patients who are very young or old. Or there may be instances where the body temperature may be low, as opposed to high (fever). In the case of severe sepsis, there is poor organ function or blood flow irregularity. This can show up as low blood pressure or low urination during the day. There is also a condition known as septic shock, which is low blood pressure due to sepsis that does not return to normal even after intravenous fluids. Septic shock is known to kill up to 70% of those who contract it.
Diagnosis for sepsis is done by checking for end-organ dysfunction (ensuring that the lungs, brain, liver, kidneys and heart are all right, without pain or discomfort), using the qSOFA or the quickSOFA method. In this method, there are three criteria with 1 point each—low blood pressure, high respiratory rate and altered mentation (mental status). The qSOFA score is on a scale of 0 to 3 points. If the qSOFA score is 2 or more, it is life-threatening sepsis.
Treatment of sepsis includes antibiotics and intravenous fluids. Since sepsis can lead to many complications, a range of treatments and care are used to revive the various organs of the body. Fluid replacement, blood pressure medications, mechanical ventilation for the lungs, dialysis for the kidneys, catheters for the bloodstream, etc. are some of the procedures used to maintain the overall body function.
It is important then, both for healthcare professionals as well as the general public, to be aware of sepsis and understand the importance of hygiene and immediate medical attention in the case of infections so that they don’t become life-threatening. Take care!