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Sepsis — a deadly response to infection

By Nishit Shah • Sep 10, 2018 at 2:00 AM

Have you ever heard of sepsis? Maybe a loved one was diagnosed with it, but you never quite understood what it means. As we recognize September as Sepsis Awareness Month, it is a good time to talk about sepsis.

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is life-threatening, and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have — in your skin, lungs, urinary tract or somewhere else — triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Some people are at higher risk of infection and sepsis:

* Adults 65 or older

* People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease

* People with weakened immune systems

* Children younger than one

According to the Ohio Hospital Association, sepsis kills 258,000 people in the United States every year — more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer combined. In 2016, Ohio hospitals treated more than 38,000 patients for severe sepsis or septic shock. Of those, 7,380 died.

It is important to have early recognition and early intervention — but less than 1 percent of Americans can identify the symptoms of sepsis. While any infection can trigger sepsis, some of the common infections more likely to cause sepsis include pneumonia, abdominal infection, kidney infection and bloodstream infection.

Know the symptoms

Fisher-Titus urges everyone to know and promote the six early signs of sepsis. According to the Sepsis Alliance, the six signs of sepsis are:

S – Shivering, fever, or very cold

E – Extreme pain or general discomfort (“worst ever”)

P – Pale or discolored skin

S – Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused

I – “I feel like I might die”

S – Short of breath

Getting ahead of sepsis

* Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to prevent infections. If you have a chronic condition, make sure you are taking care of yourself and getting recommended vaccines.

* Good hygiene is important. Be sure to wash your hands and to keep cuts clean and covered while they heal.

* Be sure to remember the signs of sepsis.

* Act fast and get immediate care if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better.

Remember, sepsis is a medical emergency and time matters. If you suspect sepsis, tell your doctor right away. For more information about sepsis, visit OhioHospitals.org/SOS.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Nishit Shah is the medical director of Fisher-Titus Medical Center’s hospitalist program. He is board certified in internal medicine and has been a member of the Fisher-Titus hospitalist team since July 2016.

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