Doctor's Notes on Sepsis (Blood Infection)
Sepsis refers to a serious infection that has disseminated in the body through the bloodstream, sometimes referred to as septicemia or as “blood poisoning” by laypersons. Most commonly, sepsis is caused by a widespread bacterial infection in the bloodstream. Sepsis involves widespread organ dysfunction and can cause many different symptoms.
The main symptoms of sepsis are:
- a drop in blood pressure (low blood pressure),
- fast respiratory rate, and
- changes in mental status such as sleepiness, confusion, or delirium.
Associated symptoms may include:
- fever or a low body temperature,
- fast heart rate,
- flushing, and
- shortness of breath.
Sepsis can also cause a drop in urine production, shock, and organ failure.
What Is the Treatment for Sepsis?
Treatment for sepsis involves:
- Antibiotics to treat the underlying infection (initially broad-spectrum antibiotics that work against multiple infections)
- Other medications as needed, including medications to support blood pressure and function of the circulation
- pain control medications
- sedative drugs
- Oxygen and respiratory support, sometimes in the form of a ventilator
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Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)Low blood pressure (hypotension) may be caused by heart conditions, intravascular fluid complications (dehydration, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding), medications, endocrine conditions, allergic reactions, orthostatic hypotension, diabetes, and micturition syncope. Low blood pressure may or may not have symptoms depending upon the cause. Treatment also depends upon the causes of low blood pressure.
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.