Discover the early symptoms of sepsis and learn why recognizing them is crucial for timely treatment. Read now to stay informed.

7 Sepsis Symptoms You Should Recognize

Don't Ignore These 7 Warning Signs of Sepsis.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that happens when your body overreacts to an infection. It can be triggered by a urinary tract infection, a lung infection or even an infected cut or scrape. More than 1.7 million American adults every year develop sepsis, and as many as 30 percent of them die from the illness. Older adults are particularly susceptible.

In sepsis, the body’s response to an infection is out of control, creating inflammation and setting off a cascade of problems. Blood pressure drops and blood vessels get leaky, impeding blood flow to important organs such as the heart and brain. Most of the time when we develop an infection, we can keep it localized where it started. But there are times when the body can’t do that. That’s really what sepsis is.

Sepsis can be triggered by any type of bacterial or viral infection. The infection often starts in the lungs, urinary tract, skin or gastrointestinal tract, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Particularly in older people, urinary tract infections are a common cause. Lung infections [pneumonia] are also very common.

Sepsis is treated with antibiotics, fluids and support to vital organs, and early treatment offers the best chance of cure. But sepsis can be hard to detect before someone is seriously ill. Patients may not always have clear symptom, the reason it’s so dangerous is that it’s sneaky.

Also see: When to go to the ER for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms?

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a rare but serious complication of an infection.

Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

What causes a sepsis infection?

The immune system usually keeps an infection limited to one place. This is called a localised infection. To do this, the body produces white blood cells.

White blood cells travel to an infection site to destroy the germs causing the infection. This triggers tissue swelling, known as inflammation. This helps to fight the infection and prevent it from spreading.

However, an infection can spread to other parts of the body if the immune system is weak or an infection is severe.

Widespread inflammation can damage tissue and interfere with blood flow. When blood flow is interrupted, blood pressure can drop dangerously low. This stops oxygen from reaching the organs and tissues.

When to suspect sepsis.

Adults age 65 and older are 13 times more likely to be hospitalized with sepsis than younger adults, studies show.

If you’ve had any kind of recent infection and you aren’t feeling like yourself, you should ask your health care provider if sepsis could be the cause.

You’re at higher risk for sepsis if you have a weakened immune system or a chronic condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or lung disease.

You should also be vigilant if you’ve been in the hospital recently, because some sepsis cases are caused by infections like staph or E. coli you can pick up in a health care setting. A 2020 study published in Intensive Care Medicine found that about 24 percent of sepsis patients had a hospital-acquired infection. It’s also important to be wary at home or in the community, as nearly 87 percent of cases start before a patient goes to the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Also see: 5 Tips For Better Living With Diabetes

7 Warning Signs of Sepsis.

Because sepsis is hard to detect, seek out medical care if you or a loved one has any of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme pain or discomfort (often at the infection site)
  • Lethargy or tiredness
  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Fever, shivering and chills
  • A very low body temperature
  • Fast heart rate, fast breathing or breathlessness
  • Clammy, sweaty or blotchy skin

Sources of infection.

Sepsis can be triggered by an infection in any part of the body. The most common sites of infection that lead to sepsis are the:

However, sometimes the specific infection and source of sepsis can't be identified.

Tests to diagnose sepsis.

Sepsis is often diagnosed by testing your:

  • Temperature
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing rate
  • Blood

Other tests can help determine the type of infection, where it's located and which parts of the body have been affected. These include:

  • Urine or stool samples
  • A wound culture – where a small sample of tissue, skin or fluid is taken from the affected area for testing
  • Respiratory secretion testing – taking a sample of saliva, phlegm or mucus
  • Blood pressure tests
  • Imaging studies – like an X-ray, ultrasound scan or Computerised tomography (CT) scan

Also see: When to Go to the ER for High Blood Pressure and Hypertension

Who’s at risk of sepsis?

Anyone can develop sepsis after an injury or minor infection. However, some people are more vulnerable, including people who:

  • Are very young
  • Are very old
  • Are pregnant
  • Have had a urinary catheter fitted
  • Have a long term health condition like diabetes
  • Have recently had surgery
  • Are genetically prone to infections
  • Are already in hospital withhave a medical condition that weakens the immune system – like HIV or leukaemia a serious illness
  • Have to stay in hospital for a long time
  • Have wounds or injuries as a result of an accident
  • Have a medical condition that weakens the immune system – like HIV or leukaemia
  • Are receiving medical treatment that weakens the immune system – like chemotherapy or long-term steroids
  • Are on mechanical ventilation – where a machine is used to help you breathe

Also see: 9 Tips for Maintaining Healthy Kidneys

Long term effects of sepsis.

Some people with sepsis will experience long-term physical and psychological problems. This is known as post-sepsis syndrome.

Symptoms of post-sepsis syndrome include:

  • Feeling lethargic or excessively tired
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen limbs
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Breathlessness

Remember, this blog provides general information and should not replace professional medical advice. If you or a loved one has any of the above symptoms it's advisable to seek professional help from your healthcare provider or call or visit our Closest Emergency Room for medical help. We have board-certified physicians, nurses and staff to help you recover and give appropriate treatment and medical advice.

We have ER locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.

We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.