More than 257,000 Americans are killed by sepsis each year. What is sepsis you may ask? Well, sepsis is our body’s response to any exacerbated, life-threatening infection. Prolonged sepsis can result in organ tissue damage and if not addressed, death.
If you have a persistent infection resulting in a fever of 101°F and an accelerated heart rate, you may have sepsis and should seek medical attention if you haven’t already. But how does one get sepsis in the first place? Here’s a list 10 common causes — knowing what to do when you notice them might just save your life.
A Common Ailment
Though it usually only kills the elderly or infirm, the flu can indeed be deadly. Extreme cases of the flu can result in potentially septic infections if left untreated. While there is a vaccine for the flu, there are no catch-all cures for the virus besides rest and recovery. If you experience worsening symptoms after a week, see a doctor.
Influenza, more commonly known as “the flu,” is one of the most common viral infections. It also happens to be one of the most contagious as well. Most of us have had it and have felt the symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, aching muscles, fatigue, and high fever. But did you know the flu can also cause sepsis?
Pneumonia is not a fun ailment to come down with and those of us who have dealt with it know all too well the chest pains, coughing, and labored breathing that comes along with the infection. It’s a tricky infection because it’s one that can be contracted whilst in the company of other infected people or in the hospital.
Normally, pneumonia is treated with antibiotics and these helpful microorganisms normally do the trick. Nevertheless, if antibiotics prove ineffective, the infection can worsen and eventually result in sepsis, which can then easily spread through the bloodstream of those with weaker immune systems.
Diabetes is a disease that affects more than 100 million adults in the United States. Those with diabetes cannot properly regulate their blood sugar and must monitor it in order to ensure that their blood sugar levels. If they’re too low, it means your body might starve if they are too high, well there are a number of consequences, including sepsis.
Lack of Glucose
Those with diabetes are more prone to developing wounds that don’t heal properly. Because of this, any tiny infection that isn’t properly treated can easily become aggressive. If these infections are left to their own devices, they can become septic and ultimately fatal if resistant to antibiotics.
This is a big one. The appendix, for all those that don’t know, is a tiny 3 ½-inch-long tube of tissue that extends from our large intestine. It is a vestigial organ, which means one that we used to need in prehistoric times but can do without nowadays. This is a good thing because the appendix is one organ that can and does become infected fairly easily.
Most people get through life without having their appendix removed, but if it does become inflamed, infected, and somehow bursts, sepsis can occur. Septic infections within the appendix are extremely serious and if you feel persistent pain in your lower right quadrant, it may behoove you to see a doctor as quickly as possible, just in case.
The kidneys act as a filter of sorts which removes and releases impurities and infections out into the bladder for release as urine. As such, they are one of the most important organs in the body. Kidney stones are small masses of calcium or uric acid that can sometimes form in the kidneys as a result of a malfunction with this filtration process.
Many times, these stones are small and can pass through the ureter without issue. When they are too big to pass or become stuck, they can lead to infections within the kidneys and may have to be removed surgically. If these infections worsen to the point of sepsis, it’s possible that the kidney itself might have to be removed to avoid the spread of infection.
Urinary Tract Infections
Often, when kidney stones become dislodged, even if they do make it through the ureter and out of the body, they may scrape against the inside of the urinary tract. This can lead to urinary tract infections. By the same token, any foreign or dangerous bacteria entering the urinary tract can cause painful infections.
Seek Medical Help
These types usually affect more women than they do men, but no one is immune to them. Antibiotics are usually administered at the first onset of the infection but if the condition spreads back to the kidneys, sepsis may develop as a result. The term for this is specifically named as urosepsis. Seek medical help right away if you suspect you have a urinary tract infection.
Meningitis is caused as a result of the inflammation of the protective tissues, known collectively as the meninges, covering the brain and spinal cord. Many things can inflame the meninges, but bacteria, viruses, and fungi are the three most common culprits of meningitis affecting us today.
Meningitis infections can be severe and can result in a difficult to cure a case of sepsis. The brain and spinal cord regulate everything in our bodies so it’s important to know the signs of meningitis and seek medical help as soon as possible. Common symptoms are fever, headache, neck stiffness, confusion, altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises.
Autoimmune diseases are also a fairly common cause of sepsis today. By definition, an autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body’s immune system is defective. Rather than attack bacteria, viruses, and other infections, the confused immune system instead attacks its own healthy cells.
Some examples of autoimmune diseases are celiac disease, diabetes mellitus type 1, Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. These are all potentially dangerous diseases that can compromise how our body fights off infections, thereby resulting in difficult to treat cases of sepsis.
It may seem slightly redundant, but the term “blood poisoning” doesn’t just mean sepsis. This blanket term is often used to describe not only septicemia but any type of bacteremia. Bacteremia means that there are bacteria in the blood, whereas septicemia describes any kind of blood infection, including those caused by unchecked viruses.
One of the worst cases of blood poisoning is one that affects the white blood cells in our blood. It is often misdiagnosed as a form of sepsis but is actually an infection that can result in sepsis. Most of these blood infections can be severe and many can be fatal because the infection sometimes spreads as our blood circulates. Antibiotics are needed in most cases of blood poisoning.
Malaria is an infectious disease born of a parasite that affects humans and other animals alike, typically transmitted via mosquito bite. It is one of the deadliest diseases in the world. In 2017 alone, the World Health Organization reported 216 million cases of it across the globe. Though most of these cases were in Africa and other tropical regions.
Symptoms of malaria include fatigue, fever, vomiting, headaches, yellowing skin, and seizures. Coma and death can occur if the disease is left untreated, along with, you guessed it, sepsis. Remember, if you’re traveling to a region known to be home to malaria, take the necessary precautions and protect yourself.