Sepsis – Spot the signs

Sepsis is a condition that is triggered by an infection or injury. This can come from anywhere from an infected cut to an insect bite.

It can affect anyone at all, however, there is an increased risk of sepsis to the very young and elderly and also those who have a medical condition or receive medical treatment that may weaken the immune system. People who have been treated for a serious illness or have had surgery are also at greater risk.

Usually, the body’s immune system fights infection and prevents it from spreading, however, in some instances; the body stops fighting the infection and begins to turn on itself. This is where sepsis occurs. At this point, the body’s immune function goes into overdrive causing swelling, inflammation and blood clotting.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

There are three levels of severity of sepsis – Sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock.

Initial symptoms may include:

  • A high or low body temperature
  • An increased heart rate
  • Fast breathing
  • Shivering and chills

Severe sepsis occurs as a result of organ failure. Signs of severe sepsis include:

  • Cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin
  • Faintness / dizziness
  • Changes in mental ability – Confusion or disorientation
  • Problems breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Less urine production than normal
  • Loss of consciousness

Symptoms of septic shock include the symptoms of severe sepsis, plus a very low blood pressure.

What to do if you suspect sepsis

If you suspect you or someone else is suffering with sepsis, you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

If diagnosed early, sepsis can be treated with antibiotics. Without quick treatment however, it can lead to multiple organ failure and even death in the most severe cases.

It has been estimated by The UK Sepsis Trust that in the UK, approximately 147,000 people are admitted into hospital each year due to sepsis, of which an estimated 30% die.

Are there any lasting symptoms of sepsis?

People who recover from sepsis can experience ongoing physical and psychological issues which are known as ‘Post Sepsis Syndrome’.

In most cases, people who survive the illness do however return to a normal or near normal way of life within 18 months of the illness.

Olivia Honaker, Clinical Negligence Solicitor commented:

“Sepsis is a life threatening condition which can have a sustained impact on a person’s life.

The physical impact of the illness can take a number of months to recover from and the psychological trauma can be life changing for many survivors.

If you have any concerns or suspicions that you or a loved one may have the symptoms of sepsis, it is essential that you seek medical assistance immediately”.