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Sepsis – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by

Sepsis refers to a fatal illness that is caused by the body’s response to an infection. A patient may experience sepsis when the chemicals that the immune system sends into the bloodstream to fight an infection causes inflammation all over the body instead. Serious cases of the condition can result in septic shock, a fatal medical emergency.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are over one million cases of sepsis annually. The condition claims the lives of over 258,000 Americans yearly.

Sepsis cases in the country increase annually. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warned that the condition causes more deaths in the country that AIDS, breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined. This can be due to:

  • An aging population – sepsis is more common the elderly.
  • An increase in antibiotic resistance – this occurs when an antibiotic loses its ability to resist or eliminate bacteria.
  • An increase in the number of people with illnesses that compromise their immune systems.

Known symptoms of sepsis

If you believe that you or someone you know is suffering from sepsis, refrain from making a home diagnosis. Consult a healthcare professional right away, especially if the patient is experiencing side effects of the condition.

While the symptoms of sepsis due to a bad infection tend to be subtle and are often mistaken as the symptoms of other serious conditions, sepsis usually occurs when a person has had a recent infection.

The signs of sepsis usually include:

  • Diaphoresis – Unusual levels of sweating.
  • Pyrexia – Fever/high temperature. This may also come with chills and shivering.
  • Tachycardia – Fast heart rate/pulse.
  • Tachypnea – Rapid rate of breathing.

Call an ambulance immediately if the patient has reached a late stage, or severe sepsis/septic shock. Side effects of septic shock include:

  • Clammy, cold, and pale or discolored/mottled skin
  • Confusion/the patient isn’t as alert as usual (any other change in their mental state, like a feeling of doom or a real fear of dying)
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Low urine output (e.g. not urinating for 24 hours or more)
  • Poor perfusion/the skin is cool and pale at the extremities (this signals poor blood supply)
  • Severe muscle pain and extreme general discomfort
  • Slurred speech

Individuals who are at risk of developing sepsis may include:

  • Patients exposed to invasive devices, e.g., intravenous catheters or breathing tubes
  • Patients undergoing treated in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • Patients with weaker immune systems, e.g., those with HIV
  • Young children and the elderly

Body systems harmed by sepsis

Sepsis may cause complications like the formation of small blood clots all over the body. These clots may block blood and oxygen flow to vital organs and other parts of the body, which can increase the risk of organ failure and gangrene/tissue death.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent sepsis

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent sepsis or address its side effects:

  • Garlic – Garlic contains allicin, a compound that can help minimize inflammation all over the body. Additionally, garlic can help fight infection and strengthen the immune system.
  • Honey – Honey functions as an immunomodulator for the immune system. This means it can help modulate the immune system and potentially improve treatments for the condition.
  • Turmeric – Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin that can boost protein levels in the blood. With higher protein levels, blood has a better chance of fighting or preventing infection. Turmeric can also help minimize pain, redness, and swelling.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C can also help strengthen the immune system. Sources include citrus fruits and supplements.

Treatments, management plans for sepsis

While sepsis can be fatal, the condition can be mild to severe. However, there’s a higher recovery rate for mild cases and septic shock has a 50 percent mortality rate.

Treatment for the condition includes different kinds of medications like:

  • Corticosteroids – Reduces inflammation.
  • Insulin – Stabilizes blood sugar.
  • Vasoactive medications – Increases blood pressure.

Other treatment methods include:

  • Dialysis – May be required if the patient’s kidneys are unable to properly filter excess water, harmful wastes, and salt from the blood.
  • IV fluids – Prevents dehydration.
  • Respirator – Helps the patient breathe better.
  • Surgery – May be necessary to help remove the source of an infection, e.g., draining a pus-filled abscess or removing infected tissue.

Where to learn more


Sepsis refers to a fatal illness that is caused by the body’s response to an infection.

The signs of sepsis usually include diaphoresis, pyrexia, and tachycardia.

Sepsis may cause complications like organ failure and gangrene/tissue death.

Treatment for the condition includes different kinds of medications and other treatment methods like dialysis or surgery.

Sources include:


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