Sepsis may just be the deadliest condition you’ve never heard of. Each year, this little-known killer takes more than 250,000 lives in the United States. A shocking 40 percent of the people who develop severe sepsis don’t survive – and there’s no known cure for the condition.
These startling statistics may have you wondering just what sepsis is and what you can do to avoid it. Sepsis is a condition that occurs when your body overwhelmingly responds to an infection. A strong response to an infection can cause inflammation and trigger big changes in the body, leading to organ and tissue damage and sometimes death.
While anyone can get sepsis, older adults and people with compromised immune systems or chronic illness are at greater risk. If you or a loved one are have a high risk for sepsis, learn the symptoms. Early detection is key to effectively treating the condition.
Symptoms of Sepsis
The symptoms of sepsis are very general and can be easily mistaken for other health concerns. Most people with sepsis will experience multiple signs of the condition. The most common symptoms can be summarized through this helpful acronym:
S: Shivering, fever, feeling very cold
E: Extreme pain or discomfort
P: Pale or discolored skin
S: Sleepy or confused state
I: “I feel like I might die”
S: Short of breath
Early detection and treatment of sepsis are essential, since no cure exists. If you suspect you have sepsis, seek medical attention immediately. If your doctor isn’t available right away, head to the emergency room. Be sure to tell your care team that you are concerned you have sepsis, as this can help with a speedy diagnosis and more immediate treatment.
Because sepsis is the body’s reaction to an infection, the best way to prevent it is to take precautions to avoid infection. Get vaccinated against common illnesses like the flu and pneumonia. Clean and care for even the smallest cuts and scrapes. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands and bathing frequently.
If you notice signs of infection, such as a fever or chills, quick breathing or heart rate, or feeling confused or disoriented, see a doctor to get treated. Infected wounds that are red, swollen, or painful should also be treated by a doctor if over-the-counter antibiotic creams don’t work.
If you or a loved one are diagnosed with sepsis, treatment will most likely occur at the hospital. Because the greatest danger with sepsis is the shutdown of vital organs, your care team will focus on keeping your organs functioning and maintaining adequate blood pressure. Patients will also receive antibiotics and intravenous treatments. In severe cases, kidney dialysis or mechanical ventilation may be needed. Your doctor may also consider surgery to remove any tissue damaged by sepsis.
Many people who recover from sepsis do not suffer long-term effects of the condition. Some people, however, suffer permanent organ damage that requires life-long treatment. A number of sepsis survivors also go on to suffer the symptoms of post-sepsis syndrome, which include insomnia, nightmares, severe pain, organ dysfunction, and cognitive or emotional problems.
If your loved one is a sepsis survivor, work closely with her healthcare team to smoothly transition her back home or to a care facility. You may find that she needs more attention following her hospitalization. If you are considering long-term care for your loved one, Life Care Funding can provide you with information and resources to make the best decision for your family. Contact us today with your questions, comments, or stories.