Sepsis is a blood infection that can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. It occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs, often leading to septic shock. It can also lead to organ failure, and even death if not treated quickly. The risk of sepsis increases with age, and people over 65 are particularly vulnerable.
Early detection and recognition of symptoms is extremely important. If you suspect you have sepsis, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to reducing the risk of serious complications.
The most common symptoms and early warning signs of sepsis are:
1. Shortness of breath – Patients may experience difficulty breathing or take shallow breaths due to an inability for oxygenated blood to reach cells throughout their bodies. Sepsis can cause blood vessels to become narrowed and blood pressure to drop significantly, resulting in inadequate blood flow throughout the body. This also reduces the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the cells in the body, causing shortness of breath and making it difficult for individuals to catch their breath. In some cases, sepsis can even cause a person’s lungs to fill with fluid, leading to a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
2. A rapid heartbeat – When blood flow is inadequate, the heart may have difficulty pumping blood around the body, forcing it to beat faster in order to make up for this deficit. As a result, those who are suffering from sepsis may experience an elevated heart rate which is often accompanied by dizziness or lightheadedness. It is important for patients experiencing a rapid heartbeat caused by sepsis to seek medical help as soon as possible as this symptom could be indicative of more serious health issues such as cardiac arrest or stroke.
3. Confusion – Sepsis can cause mental changes that range from confusion and delirium to loss of consciousness and coma-like states. These changes can be caused by diminished blood flow that prevents oxygen from reaching the brain or certain toxins being released during sepsis that affects cognitive functions such as memory and concentration. Additionally, individuals who have severe infections may develop high fevers which can also contribute to confusion and lead them into delirium-like states where they cannot recognize familiar faces or respond appropriately when spoken to.
4. Decreased urination – Sepsis can impair kidney function which makes it difficult for the body to filter waste products out of blood, resulting in decreased urine output. Patients suffering from sepsis may find that they need to go less frequently than usual or produce only very small amounts when they do visit the bathroom; this condition is known as oliguria and should be reported right away so that appropriate treatments can be administered quickly before organ damage occurs due to excess waste accumulation in the blood stream.
5. Extreme fatigue – As a result of sepsis impairing blood circulation throughout the body; many patients will feel exhausted all day long regardless of how much rest they get at night. This type of extreme fatigue often causes individuals suffering from sepsis to become weak and unsteady on their feet, making it difficult for them even perform simple daily activities such as bathing or getting dressed without assistance from others.
6. Fever – Sepsis causes a fever as the body temperature rises in an attempt to fight off the infection. Fevers are often one of the first warning signs that something is wrong and can usually range anywhere from 100°F-104°F depending on how severe the blood infection is. It’s important for individuals who develop a fever to seek medical attention right away as this could be indicating sepsis, especially if they have been recently exposed to bacteria or viruses and are displaying other symptoms such as confusion or decreased urination.
7. Chills/Shivering – As blood flow throughout the body becomes impaired due to sepsis; it can cause individuals to experience chills or involuntary shaking due to a sudden drop in body temperature. Shivering is often a side effect of sepsis as it can cause blood vessels to constrict, leading to a decrease in blood flow and hence in the body’s overall temperature. Chills are usually accompanied by fever and should be reported right away so that medical professionals can identify the underlying blood infection responsible for these symptoms.
8. Changes in blood pressure – Sepsis can cause blood pressure to rise or drop suddenly as blood flow is compromised, disrupting the body’s normal healthy balance. High blood pressure is often accompanied by a rapid pulse, headaches, and chest pain, while low blood pressure may manifest as dizziness and fainting. Patients who experience sudden changes in blood pressure should seek medical attention immediately, as this could be indicative of sepsis or another serious infection.
9. Skin discoloration – As blood flow becomes impaired due to sepsis, parts of the body may appear pale or mottled due to inadequate circulation of oxygenated blood throughout the body. Additionally, patients who have severe sepsis may develop a rash that likely appears on the trunk of the body and can spread quickly if left untreated. It is important to look out for any changes in skin coloration as this could be indicative of sepsis and require medical attention right away.
10. Nausea/vomiting – Sepsis can cause inflammation throughout the body which can lead to nausea and vomiting as well as other digestive issues such as abdominal pain or diarrhea. If accompanied by fever and confusion; these symptoms could indicate that an individual has a blood infection requiring prompt medical attention.
11. Muscle aches/tenderness – Sepsis causes inflammation throughout the entire body which can lead to muscle aches and tenderness; especially if someone has been engaging in physical activity before becoming ill with sepsis. Those suffering from severe infections may also experience tenderness when touched due to inflammation around major organs such as their kidneys, liver, spleen, and heart.
12. Cold, Clammy Skin – Sepsis causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body. As a result; individuals with sepsis may experience cold, clammy skin along with other symptoms. If accompanied by any of these other symptoms, it is important for those experiencing cold, clammy skin to seek medical attention right away so that laboratory tests can be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.
13. Rapid breathing – Sepsis can cause rapid breathing due to inflammation which affects the lungs and makes it harder for them to process air. Additionally; patients who are very ill with sepsis may experience difficulty breathing due to fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Rapid breathing should be reported to a medical professional right away, as this could indicate sepsis or a different blood infection.
14. Chest Pain – Sepsis can cause chest pain due to inflammation of the lungs and other organs such as the heart. Additionally, those who are very ill with sepsis may experience fluid buildup in their chest which can also lead to chest pain or discomfort.
15. Slurred Speech – Sepsis can affect blood flow throughout the body which impairs cognitive function and can lead to slurred speech. Additionally, those who are very ill with sepsis may experience confusion or disorientation which can also result in slurred speech.
16. Unconsciousness – Sepsis can cause blood vessels to constrict, leading to a decrease in blood flow and oxygen throughout the body. As a result; individuals with sepsis may experience unconsciousness due to severe hypoxia (low blood oxygen levels).
Sepsis is a blood infection that can be life-threatening if not identified and treated quickly. Early detection of sepsis symptoms is crucial to prevent serious health complications, such as organ failure or even death. Knowing the signs of sepsis, including fever, confusion, decreased urination, and more, can help identify the condition early on. It’s important to seek medical attention right away if you are experiencing any of these symptoms associated with sepsis.