Toxic Shock Syndrome (cont.)
Toxic Shock Syndrome Causes
Toxic shock syndrome is caused by toxins produced by bacteria. Only certain rare strains of specific bacteria produce these poisons. As the bacterial toxins are released into the bloodstream, they begin to overstimulate the immune system in the body. This, in turn, causes the severe symptoms of toxic shock syndrome.
In the most common form of toxic shock syndrome, the bacteria live in the vagina of women who are infected, and the bacterial growth is encouraged by the presence of a tampon. However, these toxins can be produced from bacteria in other locations in the body as well. Sometimes, the location of the infection is not clear.
- Staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome: Most cases of toxic shock syndrome are caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus. The most well-known form of staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome is associated with menstruating women using tampons. However, men, children, and nonmenstruating women can develop toxic shock syndrome as well. In fact,
one-third of all cases of toxic shock syndrome occur in men.
- Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome: Some cases of toxic shock syndrome are caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, the same bacterium that causes strep throat. S. pyogenes often comes from a skin infection and causes a more serious form of toxic shock syndrome than S. aureus.
- Possible sources of infection
- Vagina (superabsorbent tampon use)
- Nose (nasal packing)
- Surgical wound
- Any skin wound
Joseph S Bushra, MD, FAAEM
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