Blood poisoning (sepsis)

The vernacular speaks of blood poisoning - a pretty apt term for the clinical picture of sepsis. In the beginning there is always a local infection, mostly with bacteria. From this disease focus - for example, from a wound on the leg, an inflamed tooth root or a pneumonia - spread the pathogens and their toxins through the bloodstream in the entire body. The organism reacts with an inflammation that gradually seizes all organs. The course is usually acute, but can also be chronic.

Blood poisoning in response to an infection

The human organism has a whole arsenal of strategies to confront dangerous situations. Sometimes, however, the damaging effects are so great that the defensive measures not only fail, but reverse and target the body itself.

Even today, this ends in death, for example, in a blood poisoning (sepsis) in many cases. The original trigger of a blood poisoning can be any kind of infection, for example:

  • a small injury on the finger
  • an insect bite on the arm
  • an inflamed tooth
  • a fungal infection
  • pneumonia
  • an infected wound after surgery
  • a meningitis (meningitis)

Blood poisoning: causes of sepsis

Usually, the body succeeds in limiting an infection to its place of origin. This is due to the inflammatory reaction, a complex interaction of various reactions of vessels and tissue, secretion of endogenous substances and immigration of certain cells. This leads to the classic signs of inflammation such as redness, overheating swelling and pain.

However, if the body is weakened, for example as part of another disease, or if the pathogens are particularly aggressive, the infection and thus the inflammatory reaction can spread to the entire organism. Successively, the organs are attacked in a rapid process and therefore no longer supplied with sufficient oxygen.

The more vital functions fail, the harder it is for the body to stop the disease. As in a chain reaction, the circulation, kidneys, lungs, liver and other body organs can fail within a few hours ("septic shock"), leading to death.

How common is sepsis?

Blood poisoning is more common than breast cancer, AIDS or colon cancer. It is estimated that about one third to half of those affected die as a result, comparable to the mortality rate in acute myocardial infarction. In surgical intensive care units, sepsis is the leading cause of death.

5 facts about blood poisoning - © Qimono

Signs of blood poisoning: How to recognize the symptoms

At the point of infection - if externally visible - signs of inflammation appear:

  • reddening
  • overheat
  • swelling
  • pain

The blood poisoning itself is not easy to recognize, especially at the beginning, because the signs of the disease are not very specific, so they can also occur in other diseases. This includes:

  • high fever or fever with chills
  • confusion
  • Acceleration of breathing and heartbeat
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • decreased excretion of urine

Red line as a symptom of sepsis?

It is often believed that a red, painful strand that progresses from a wound towards the heart is an unerring sign of sepsis. However, this is a misconception.

Such a red line rather indicates a local inflammation of the lymphatic vessels (lymphangitis). Bacteria migrate from a wound under the skin in the direction of the lymph nodes. From there, however, the inflammation can spread to the whole body and in rare cases actually develop into sepsis. If you notice a red stripe on the skin, you should always consult a doctor.

Blood poisoning: diagnosis and diagnosis

In the blood show signs of inflammation and a drop in red blood cells and coagulation disorders. The diagnosis is confirmed by the detection of pathogens in the blood culture. In ultrasound, enlargement of the liver and spleen are usually visible.

Currently, researchers are trying to identify genes whose activity can be used for diagnosis or prognosis. However, it will certainly take some time to get ready for practical use.

Blood poisoning: treatment of sepsis

Since the person is seriously ill, the therapy of sepsis takes place in the intensive care unit. As with myocardial infarction or stroke, the better the patient's cure, the sooner the treatment starts. The focus is on antibiotic therapy. Depending on the stage of the disease, if possible, the site of infection should be removed (for example, the gallbladder).

In addition, an attempt is made to improve the shock situation through treatment and to stop or reverse the organ failure. This includes:

  • infusion therapy
  • artificial respiration
  • Renal replacement therapy
  • artificial nutrition
  • Replacing the body's own cells (for example, red blood cells) and substances such as insulin and cortisone

Recently, there has been the development of specific drugs that are supposed to boost the patient's immune response and have lowered the mortality rate in several studies.

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