Symptoms and Signs of Sepsis (Blood Infection)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/4/2021

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:

Associated symptoms may include:

  • fever or a low body temperature,
  • chills,
  • fast heart rate, 
  • fatigue
  • dizziness,
  • 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
    • corticosteroids
    • insulin
    • pain control medications
    • sedative drugs
  • Oxygen and respiratory support, sometimes in the form of a ventilator

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.