When your loved one faces sickness or injury, the risk for infection can increase. If caught right away and treated, an infection won’t turn into a problem and will go away in a few days or weeks. But, if an infection goes untreated it could lead to serious complications for your loved one. One serious complication to an infection is sepsis. When untreated, sepsis can become life threatening for your loved one.
Sepsis is a life threatening complication of an infection. This issue occurs when the body responds to an infection in a negative way. This may include issues with chemicals being released into the bloodstream. The chemicals can trigger dangerous inflammatory reactions in the body. This could become so serious that it causes the organ systems to shut down. In rare cases, this may evolve into sepsis shock. Sepsis shock causes rapidly dropping blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure may cause death.
Anyone can develop sepsis. But, it is most common in adults who have weakened immune systems such as elderly people. Those who are elderly or in nursing homes have been known to have weakened immune systems.
What are the Symptoms of Sepsis?
The recognition of symptoms early on can help safe the life of your loved one. The most common symptoms include:
- A fever of over 101 or under 96.8.
- A rapid heartbeat, generally over 90 beats per minute.
- A respiratory rate of over 20 breaths per minute.
If your loved one suffers from severe sepsis, they will have these symptoms. They might also have the following symptoms:
- Significantly less urine output.
- A sudden and frightening change in mental status.
- Lower number of platelets in platelet count.
- Having a difficult time breathing.
- Abnormal cardiovascular function such as an abnormal heart pumping function.
- Severe abdominal pain.
Sepsis and Infection
Sepsis usually occurs in those who have just had surgery. Or, it occurs in those recently hospitalized or currently hospitalized. Any type of infection can lead to sepsis. The different types of infections are bacterial, viral and fungal. The most common infections which lead to sepsis include:
- Abdominal infections.
- Kidney infections.
- Bloodstream infection.
Some people believe that the amount of sepsis in the elderly population is increasing because of drug-resistant bacteria. This bacteria is evolving to not be effected by antibiotics. Other medical treatments may have also weakened the immune systems of many.
There are several factors which may put your loved one at a higher risk for complications such as sepsis. These risk factors include:
- Having open wounds.
- Having injuries.
- A current sickness/hospitalization.
- Having breathing tubes.
- Having intravenous catheters.
The diagnosis of sepsis is difficult because the symptoms are like other medical illnesses. There are several tests that can be done to try to determine what infection is occurring.
One of the most common tests is a blood test in which doctors are looking for:
- Clear cut evidence of the infection.
- Problems with clotting.
- Abnormal liver function.
- Abnormal kidney function.
- Impaired oxygen ability.
- Electrolyte imbalances.
Other bodily fluids may be tested to determine if your loved one is suffering from sepsis. These test include:
- Urine tests. Especially if your loved one is suffering from a UTI.
- Wound secretions. Especially if the wound appears infected.
- Respiratory secretions. If your loved one is coughing up mucus, it may get tested to determine what is causing it.
In addition to testing fluids, there are several other machine tests to determine where an infection is coming from. These tests include:
- X-ray. When using low levels of radiation, x-rays are vey helpful in displaying lung problems.
- Computerized tomography (CT). Infections in the lower body such as the bowels or kidneys are often displayed using a CT scan.
- Ultrasound. This technological device uses sound waves to display problem areas. This is often used for the gallbladder and ovaries.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is often helpful in identifying soft tissue infections such as what may occur in the spine.
Sepsis is generally treated in several ways. These include:
- Antibiotics. These begin immediately once it is known your loved one has an infection. These are effective against a large variety of bacteria. They will most likely help your loved one survive sepsis.
- Vasopressors. This is usually used to help treat the low blood pressure and cause it to rise to a normal level.
- Insulin. To help maintain steady blood sugar.
Sepsis is a complex complication that can occur with infections. If your loved one has an infection or any of the mentioned symptoms, contact a doctor immediately. If the nursing home did not properly treat an infection, it can be held responsible for your loved one’s sepsis.