World Sepsis Day – Tuesday 13 September – What are the signs and symptoms of sepsis?

World Sepsis Day 2016
World Sepsis Day 2016
What are the signs and treatment of sepsis?

“The figures are huge” says John Parker who is Leicester’s Hospitals Sepsis Lead Consultant , “every year in the UK there are 150,000 cases of Sepsis, resulting in a staggering 44,000 deaths – more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined. Unfortunately the initial signs are often ignored, an individual may say “I just felt like I had a bout of flu, stomach upset or chest infection” and so people don’t get any medical attention. Early diagnosis is essential, so we want to highlight the signs of Sepsis and raise its awareness.”

“It’s important to remember that sepsis is a medical emergency. Every minute and hour counts, especially since the infection can spread quickly. There’s no one symptom of sepsis, but rather it has a combination of symptoms.”

Sepsis is caused by the way the body responds to germs, such as bacteria, getting into your body. The infection may have started anywhere in a sufferer’s body, and may be only in one part of the body or it may be widespread. Sepsis can occur following chest or water infections, problems in the abdomen like burst ulcers, or simple skin injuries like cuts and bites.

“A lot of people will more readily know sepsis as septicaemia or blood poisoning and whilst diagnosis and treatment can be different for adult and children, the basic signs to look out for are:

S lurred speech
E xtreme shivering or muscle pain
P assing no urine (in a day)
S evere breathlessness
I feel like I might die
S kin mottled or discoloured

Amandeep Sadhra who has recovered from sepsis says “I was just going about my normal day, when I noticed a rash on my hand, I didn’t really take any notice of it as I suffer from eczema, but during the course of the day it got worse and was throbbing a lot. By the time I got home after work, I felt very tired and had no appetite. I decided to just take some paracetamol and go to bed. The next day I felt no better and didn’t want to get up and my hand had ballooned up like a boxing glove and I was starting to shiver, I felt like I was getting a fever. It was at this time my husband said we should go to the Emergency Department.

“I received scans, a blood test and was advised that as there was a lot of fluid on my hand that I would have to have an operation, but during the course of the night the doctor advised me that my blood pressure was dropping and the antibiotics were not working and I was going to be transferred to intensive care. The next day I was taken for my operation and woke up five or so days later after my procedure. I was then advised that I had been very ill after my operation, suffering from multiple organ failure, slight pneumonia and it was decided to continue my sedation. I was then advised that I had Sepsis.”

“It was a life-changing event, I had always been fit and healthy but after being discharged from hospital it has taken me several months to recuperate, go back to work, get back to normal. You never think something like this could happen to you, particularly from something so minimal like a skin rash to something life threatening.”

If you suspect sepsis, get medical attention immediately.

Meningitis Awareness Week – Please share the Meningitis Research Foundation brilliant infographic and get informed!

Meningitis Awareness Week
Meningitis Awareness Week

Meningitis has been big news in the UK throughout 2014 but it’s no time to be complacent about the symptoms; this deadly disease hasn’t gone away warns international charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) during its annual Meningitis Awareness Week (15 – 21 September 2014).

A new MenB vaccine was recommended for use on the NHS to protect babies in March 2014, but it’s not been implemented yet, and a MenC booster campaign is currently underway for those aged under 25 starting university this year. But people of all age groups can be affected by many forms of the disease.  Everyone can help save lives by knowing the signs and symptoms and having the confidence to seek medical help fast when family and friends fall sick.

MRF Chief Executive, Christopher Head says: “It’s our 25th anniversary this year and after decades investing in research, campaigning and support, we have seen remarkable progress in the fight against meningitis in the UK in 2014. But we are still some way from protecting everyone from all forms of the disease. We cannot be complacent. Meningitis hasn’t gone away which is why we continue to promote the symptoms in the run up to the winter peak for cases with a life-saving national Meningitis Awareness Week.”

The charity estimates 3,200 people are affected by meningitis and septicaemia in the UK every year. One in ten dies and a quarter of survivors are left with life altering disabilities ranging from deafness and brain damage to amputations. Globally around 1,000 people die from meningitis every single day.

Sepsis, Scepticemia and Blood Poisoning. Find out about the signs and symptoms of blood poisoning.

Before starting on the main purpose of this blog I should explain the reason for writing it in the first place.  My father had serious complications from what should have been a very straight forward removal of a tumour from his colon via keyhole surgery.

In another blog I’ll walk you through the whole story because it offers a number of very useful lessons for us all about the problematic nature of surgery and post-operative care.  One, of many complications, was an infection which returned him to hospital.  more on than off, for two months.

Blood poisoning
Blood poisoning

In a previous life as a researcher I’d done some work with infection, in particular, sepsis so I felt that a short blog outlining some of the signs and symptoms of blood poisoning would be of value.  It is worth noting that septecemia is one of the most common causes of death in the USA.  One source suggests between 1-2% of deaths are caused by it.   In the UK the NHS claims sepsis cases are responsible for 30,000 lives each year.

As a point of information there is a slight difference between sepsis and septicaemia though most people use the words interchangeably.  Sepsis is when the infection of the blood is bacterial in origin while septicaemia also includes infections which are fungal and viral in nature.

By way of shorthand I will use sepsis (as opposed to other names and spelling) for the rest of this blog post.  The definition of sepsis is fairly straightforward.  It is blooding poisoning which occurs when our bodies over react to an infection.  This in turn can lead to blood clotting and inflammation.

Sepsis comes in three stages with differing degrees of the severity of the symptoms.  Please note that severe sepsis and above are very serious and if you think you have either you should attend an Emergency Room/A&E as soon as possible.

People with mild sepsis typically present the following symptoms:-

  • Fever and often delirium.
  • Increased breathing rate.
  • Palpitations.

With severe sepsis symptoms can include:-

  • Low blood pressure
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Pale and “clammy skin”
  • Bowel disorders such as diarrhoea

The final stage is septic shock when the body’s organs are at risk due to low oxygen levels.

For mild sepsis treatments will typically involve antibiotics.  However for severe sepsis and septic shock a patient will need to go to intensive care so that they can be monitored at all times.  In some cases treatments in an ICU will involve blood transfusions and anti-viral medications.

The causes of sepsis are as varied as the causes of infections themselves.  But flu, appendicitis, post-surgery and meningitis have all been cited as common reasons for developing sepsis.

The above is, of course, a simple over view of the condition.   Given the impact of infections on my families’ life over the last few months I’d love to find out a bit more about the experiences of others who have had sepsis.  It would be great if you could share your sepsis story in the comments box below.  In you could think in terms of the following questions that would be great:-

  1. What type of sepsis did you suffer from?
  2. What was the cause of the sepsis?
  3. How was it treated?
  4. How long did it take you to recover?
  5. What one piece of advice would you give to somebody who has just been diagnosed with sepsis?

I look forward to reading your comments.  Thanks very much in advance!