Five Signs of Sepsis

Let’s say your body has an infection. You’re busy at work or with the kids and decide to ignore it. Many of us think it will go away on its own. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case!

When an infection isn’t treated properly or rages out of control, you can develop what’s known as sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which the body actually injures its own tissues and organs. And it’s a serious matter. In fact, more than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the U.S. and at least 250,000 Americans die from sepsis annually, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sepsis can even occur if you are taking medications such as antibiotics and antivirals to fight the invaders that are making you sick.

So, how do you know if sepsis is happening to you? Here are the five main signs of sepsis:

  1. Cold and clammy skin: When experiencing sepsis, your body focuses on pumping blood to the most crucial organs like your heart, kidney, and brain rather than to less crucial areas of the body (your extremities). Because of this, your skin can begin to feel cold and clammy.
  2. Low levels of urine, or dark more concentrated urine: When your body senses low blood pressure, it tries to hold onto as much fluid as possible, which results in less fluid and darker, smellier urine. Your kidneys also make less urine, meaning fewer bathroom trips.
  3. Confusion, decreased level of alertness, and lightheadedness and/or dizziness can all be the result of low blood flow to the brain, dehydration, and the “bad” toxins released into the body as a result of sepsis.
  4. Very fast heart rate: If you take your pulse and find anything above 90, this could be a sign of sepsis. In sepsis, your body is revved up because it’s attempting to fight the infection, plus it’s trying super hard to get blood flow to the damaged tissues. This calls on your heart to increase the amount of blood it’s pumping out, thus speeding up your heart rate.
  5. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath: if you notice you are breathing rapidly and/or experiencing shortness of breath, as if you just climbed multiple flights of stairs, then you might want to take a deeper look into what’s going on.

If left untreated, sepsis can progress into septic shock, the most severe form of the condition, which compromises the cardiovascular system and results in very low blood pressure and inadequate blood flow to vital organs. Once in shock, you have very low blood pressure that’s difficult to improve with IV fluids and a high lactate level, which suggests you’re not getting adequate blood flow to organs and cells.

Sepsis is most commonly caused by four infections: pneumonia, abdominal infections (such as untreated appendicitis), urinary tract infections (UTIs), or an infection of skin or soft tissue. So, if you ever experience a combination of infection symptoms and the symptoms, you should call 911 and seek medical help immediately!

If you start feeling sick, don’t let it fester in your body, and potentially get worse. Please call us at Prosperity Internal Medicine at 703-876-9300 for an appointment. Our group uses the latest advances in medicine, offering our patients access to innovative health management technologies, proactive team-based care, and an evidenced-based, patient-centered approach.