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What is Sepsis? Causes and Risk Factors

Sepsis is a serious medical condition. It occurs when the patient’s body has an abnormal response to an infection. To diagnose sepsis, doctors will need to confirm that the patient has an infection. They will check the patient’s blood pressure and respiration.

Individuals with sepsis have a systolic blood pressure reading of less than 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a respiration rate of at least twenty-two breaths per minute. In addition, they have an altered mental state.

Patients need prompt sepsis treatment to reduce their risk of septic shock. Most patients will receive intravenous antibiotics for sepsis at the hospital. Other intravenous fluids for sepsis will be administered as well.

Some individuals may need other medications for sepsis, which may include pain medication and vasopressors. All patients should get supportive care for sepsis too.

5 Causes and Risk Factors Linked to Sepsis

However, the best treatment for sepsis depends on the cause. This includes getting specific antibiotics for sepsis. Thus, individuals need to know what caused their case first.

1. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs where the alveoli fill with fluid or pus. This makes it difficult for patients to breathe. Patients can get this illness in one or both of the lungs.

Some individuals may not be aware that they have the condition. Typically, symptoms develop over several days. Patients may have a cough with phlegm or mucus.

They may also deal with chest pain when breathing or coughing. Fatigue, fever, sweating, and chills could occur. Some patients may notice nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and appetite loss as well.

Pneumonia can lead to confusion and a body temperature that is lower than normal in older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems. Viruses, fungi, and bacteria can cause this condition.

Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Patients with the viral form may be treated with fluids, rest, and fever-reducing medication.

2. Bacteremia

Bacteremia occurs when the blood is contaminated with bacteria. Infections and surgical procedures can cause this condition. Patients with catheters or drains that are left in place could develop this condition as well.

Individuals with underlying conditions are at an increased risk of bacteremia and, thus, sepsis. Bacteremia symptoms include fever, chills, dizziness, weakness, and confusion. Redness can develop over large areas of the body. A purple rash may also occur.

Doctors will perform blood and urine tests to identify the type of bacteria causing the symptoms. Patients may need to have catheters and drains removed, and antibiotics may be necessary.

Surgery may be required if these treatment methods do not work. To reduce the risk of this illness, patients should always wash their hands before and after touching a catheter or drain.

They should also change dressings as often as their doctor recommends. Individuals should seek emergency medical care if they have difficulty breathing or have little or no urinary output.

3. Kidney Infection

Usually, kidney infections develop when a urinary tract infection spreads to the kidneys. However, these infections may also occur after kidney surgery. Females have a higher risk of this condition, and using a urinary catheter increases the infection risk too.

Urinary tract blockages elevate an individual’s risk as well. Patients with this type of infection could have abdominal pain, back pain, or pain in the side or groin.

Urination may also be painful. Their urine will often contain blood or pus, and it could appear cloudy. Individuals may notice a persistent urge to urinate, and they may also develop a fever or chills.

Doctors will test the patient’s blood and urine to see if bacteria are present to diagnose a kidney infection. Some individuals may need to have an ultrasound or other imaging studies as well. Treatment starts with antibiotics, which may be given intravenously.

Patients who have kidney infections more than once may need to be evaluated for structural abnormalities of the urinary tract or other underlying conditions. Hospitalization is necessary in cases of severe infection.

4. Digestive System Infection

Bacteria, viruses, or parasites can cause digestive system infections. Salmonella and Escherichia coli are two of the most common types of bacteria associated with digestive system infections. Patients can contract digestive system infections through ingesting contaminated food or water.

Symptoms of these infections may include abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Individuals could notice nausea, vomiting, fever, muscle aches, and appetite loss too.

Patients may be dehydrated, and they could have blood or mucus in their stool. Weight loss may occur as well. Generally, symptoms continue for five to seven days. However, some individuals could have symptoms for up to two weeks.

Adults who suspect that they may have a digestive system infection should see their doctor right away if they have blood in the stool or are vomiting blood.

An urgent appointment should also be made if vomiting continues for more than forty-eight hours or if the patient has a fever of more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If the infection is caused by bacteria, patients may receive antibiotics.

Doctors may recommend that patients use over-the-counter medicines to treat nausea and abdominal pain. It can also help if they avoid foods that are high in fiber.

5. Compromised Immune System

A compromised immune system places patient at a higher risk of developing sepsis. In individuals with compromised immune systems, their immune system is weaker than normal. Thus, they are at an increased risk of contracting an infection.

Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune conditions can weaken the immune system. Heart disease, diabetes, and other underlying medical conditions could lead to a weakened immune system as well.

Doctors may use blood tests that check a patient’s white blood cell count and immunoglobulin level to assess the health of their immune system.

Treatment for underlying health conditions may strengthen the patient’s immune system. Doctors recommend that patients take steps to avoid infection and illness.

For example, patients are advised to avoid contact with individuals who have a contagious condition. They should also wash their hands frequently. Doctors recommend that individuals get a sufficient amount of sleep every night as well.

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