Know the Facts. Save a Life.
COLUMBIA, TN — Sepsis, better known to most as blood poisoning or septicemia, is a toxic response to an infection. Even the most minor infection may lead to the body developing sepsis and this life-threatening condition can affect anyone at any age.
More than 750,000 Americans are affected by sepsis, with more than 258,000 dying annually. Sepsis takes more lives in the United States than breast, lung and prostate cancer combined.
In addition to its death toll, sepsis can also result in life-changing consequences to its survivors. Amputated limbs, failing organs and psychological issues are among the outcomes. Particularly at risk for sepsis are infants, seniors and those with diseases that compromise the immune system, such as cancer. There is no single sign or symptom of sepsis; however, warning signs may include one or more of the following:
- Shortness of breath
Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment. Timely antibiotics and fluids have been shown to significantly decrease the risk of death from sepsis. Tell your physician or nurse about any cuts or infections, and ask about your risk for sepsis.
Physicians work to diagnose sepsis based on an exam that includes temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and lab tests for signs of infection. People with sepsis must receive antibiotics and intravenous fluids as quickly as possible. Antibiotics fight the infection while the fluids help to make sure enough blood and oxygen get to your cells and tissues.
While the exact cause of sepsis is unknown, limiting your exposure to infections can also limit your risk of developing sepsis. Health care providers suggest washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, keeping wounds clean to avoid infection and obtaining immunizations against illnesses, including influenza and pneumonia.