Sepsis Is Far More Complicated Than Simply Blood Poisoning

2010-07-18 | |
Last updated: 2010-07-18

With bacteria, fungus and viruses always around us, it is glaringly obvious that our immune systems are fundamental to our survival because of their ability to protect us from these hostile invaders. Generally, healthy immune systems do a great job of eliminating these unwanted visitors without any conscious awareness on our part that we were even under attack. However, under certain circumstances, our immune systems overreact to the presence of these invaders. In this case, the immune system does far more harm than good. One case of such overreaction occurs in Sepsis.

What is Sepsis?

Often describes as blood poisoning, Sepsis involves body-wide inflammation and often results from bacterial infection. Sepsis occurs when the toxic products from these organisms are released into the blood and this subsequently promotes a response by the immune system. Because Sepsis also involves the circulatory system, the toxic products from infections can spread rapidly. This can, in turn, result in the body being overwhelmed in cases where the ‘poisoning’ by these products causes a very strong immune system response.

Sometimes confused with Septicemia or bacteremia, in which bacteria move about the circulatory system, Sepsis can occur without bacteria or fungus actually being in the blood. Though viral infections affecting the blood are also possible, they are not typically described as Sepsis.

Who Is Affected By Sepsis?

In the US, about 900,000 people develop severe Sepsis each year. It is the tenth leading cause of death in the country, killing more than 30 to 40% of those who develop it. Over the last 3 decades, the number of cases of the condition has been increasing because of a number of factors including antibiotic-resistant bacteria, increased use of immune-suppressing drugs and increased use of treatments that involve a persistently open wound. The condition affects premature newborns, the elderly and those in poor health among a number of other groups.

In hospital settings, many patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) suffer from Sepsis because of their severely compromised health. In fact, the most common way to develop Sepsis is through hospital-acquired infection. Despite advances in understanding both immune system and infection, the rates of death from Sepsis have generally not improved in decades.

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Category: Disease Information, Health Risks, Medical Research, Symptom Information

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