What is Septicemia?
Septicemia refers to a life-threatening complication that occurs when bacteria from another infection enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body. The condition is also called blood poisoning.
When left untreated, the condition can progress to sepsis. Sepsis is a serious complication of septicemia which causes inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to blood clots and can potentially block oxygen from reaching important organs in the body, resulting in organ failure.
Septicemia is a grave bloodstream infection and requires emergency hospitalization, as it can quickly result in tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
Septicemia symptoms begin at a very early stage and the person can visibly look very sick.
Common initial symptoms of septicemia are:
- Breathing very fast or shortness of breath
- Sweaty or clammy skin
- Rapid heart rate
Without treatment, the septicemia will progress causing more severe symptoms which may include:
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Confusion or inability to think clearly
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Inadequate blood flow
- Reduced urine volume
- The appearance of red dots on the skin
Who is at risk?
Since anyone can get an infection, and any infection can lead to septicemia, the condition can happen to any individual. However, there are certain risk factors that put some people at a higher risk of complications. These include:
- Having a compromised or weakened immune system
- Chronic diseases, such as lung disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.
- Being under the age of 1 year or over 65 years
- Having a recent surgery or transplant
- Experiencing serious burns or other physical trauma
The one major septicemia cause is an infection in another part of the body.
The exact origin of the infection cannot be ascertained. But numerous types of bacteria can cause septicemia. Infections that usually contribute to septicemia reason are,
- Lung infections, like pneumonia
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Gastrointestinal (GI) infections
- Kidney infections
- Skin or soft tissue infections
The bacteria from these infections can potentially enter the bloodstream and cause the complication.
How is Septicemia diagnosed?
Septicemia diagnosis can be very challenging for doctors.
- Physical examination: The doctor will begin by evaluating the symptoms and the medical history of the patient. They will perform a physical examination of the patient to check for body temperature fluctuation or blood pressure fluctuations. They may also scan for indications of other conditions that commonly happen along with septicemia. These may include pneumonia, meningitis, or cellulitis.
- Fluids tests: The doctor may perform septicemia test on several types of fluids, to confirm a bacterial infection. These may include blood tests, urine tests, wound secretions or skin sores, and respiratory secretions.
- Cell or platelet count: The doctor will check the cell and platelet count of the patient as well as order tests to examine the blood clotting.
- Oxygen levels: The doctor may check for the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood of the patient to look for any breathing issues.
- Imaging tests: If the indications of infection are not obvious from the above tests, the doctor may order for imaging tests like an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, and an ultrasound to take a closer look at the organs and tissues.
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How is Septicemia treated?
Septicemia is a life-threatening medical emergency. Most people seeking septicemia cure are admitted to the hospital. Septicemia treatment depends upon several factors including:
- Your age
- Your overall health
- The degree of your condition
- Your tolerance of some medications
The bacterial infection causing septicemia is treated using antibiotics. When there isn’t enough time to figure out the type of bacteria that is causing the condition, the initial treatment is generally done using ‘broad-spectrum’ antibiotics. These antibiotics are formulated to work against a wide range of bacteria at the same time.
In cases where the bacteria are recognized, a more specific septicemia medicine may be used.
During the treatment, the patient may be provided fluids and other medications intravenously to maintain the blood pressure and to avoid the formation of blood clots. If the patient is facing breathing issues because of septicemia, they may be provided oxygen through a mask or ventilator.
How can Septicemia be prevented?
It is vital to treat infections effectively in their early stages. This will ensure septicemia prevention by preventing the bacteria from reaching the bloodstreams.
If a person has a compromised or weakened immune system, they can try to prevent septicemia by taking the following precautions:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Avoiding smoking
- Avoiding illegal drugs
- Washing their hands regularly
- Maintaining distance from people who are sick