Our body’s immune system is designed to fight off germs and prevent infections. But sometimes the immune system can work against the body and cause severe harm. This condition is known as sepsis and is life-threatening without immediate medical treatment.
Sepsis – sometimes known as blood poisoning or septicemia – is a medical emergency that stems from the body’s toxic response to an infection. From the most minor infection, such as a small cut, to more serious conditions, such as urinary tract infections or pneumonia, any infection has the potential to lead to sepsis.
“Sepsis can affect people at any age regardless of their overall health, but those at greatest risk include the very young, older adults with chronic health conditions and individuals whose immune systems are compromised,” said Dr. Karthik Jothianandan, a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Maury Regional Medical Center.
Karthik Jothianandan, M.D.
is a specialist in internal medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care medicine who is a member of the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tennessee. He is associated with Maury Regional Medical Group Pulmonary & Critical Care, whose physicians and nurse practitioners provide care for patients in the hospital setting as well as in the Columbia practice.
Time is of the essence when it comes to sepsis. Without prompt medical attention, the condition can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death. In fact, studies have shown that the risk of death increases dramatically for every hour that passes without treatment.
Sepsis Warning Signs
There is no single sign or symptom of sepsis; however, warning signs may include:
- Symptoms typically associated with an infection, such as fever and chills
- Confusion, sleepiness or mental decline
- Shortness of breath
- Severe pain or discomfort
- A rapid heart rate
- Sweaty or clammy skin
It is extremely important to act quickly when someone displays signs of sepsis or has an infection that is not improving with treatment. In that case, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room and tell the provider that you are concerned about sepsis.
“Early diagnosis of sepsis and intervention with medication and other treatment is vital to preventing serious complications from this life-threatening condition,” said Dr. Jothianandan.
Learn more about sepsis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at CDC.gov/sepsis