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Q&A: 5 facts about sepsis

May 11, 2018—Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that you should be aware of—and able to recognize. Here are five things to know.

1. What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body's extreme response to an infection. It occurs when an infection you already have sets up a chain reaction within your body. Without rapid treatment, sepsis can cause tissue damage, organ failure and death.

2. What causes sepsis?

Four common types of infection are often linked with sepsis. These include:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Skin infection.
  • Digestive tract infection.

3. Who is at risk for sepsis?

Anyone can get an infection. And almost any infection can lead to sepsis. But people with chronic conditions like diabetes, lung disease, cancer and kidney disease are at increased risk for sepsis. Others who are at higher-than-normal risk include:

  • People 65 or older.
  • People with weakened immune systems.
  • Children younger than 1 year old.

4. What are the symptoms of sepsis?

Symptoms of sepsis can include one or a combination of any of the following:

  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Fever, shivering or feeling very cold.
  • Extreme pain or discomfort.
  • Clammy or sweaty skin.
5. How is sepsis treated?

If you get sepsis, you'll be admitted to the hospital. You'll immediately start antibiotic therapy. You may be given oxygen and intravenous fluids to maintain blood flow to your organs and treat the source of the infection. In some cases, assisted breathing, kidney dialysis or even surgery may be necessary.

Sepsis is a medical emergency. You should seek immediate treatment if you have an infection that isn't getting better and you suspect sepsis.

One way to prevent sepsis is to stay current on your vaccinations. Do you know what vaccines are recommended for adults? Find out if you're up-to-date.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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