Septic shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when your blood pressure reduces down to a dangerously low level after having an infection.
Any type of bacteria can cause the infection. Fungi such as candida and viruses can also be a cause, although this is rare.
At first the infection can further lead to a reaction called sepsis. This initiates with weakness, chills, and a rapid heart & breathing rate.
If left untreated, toxins produced by bacteria can damage the small blood vessels, causing them to leak fluid into the surrounding tissues.
The heart's ability of pumping blood to your organs can be affected, which lowers your blood pressure and means blood doesn't reach vital organs, like the brain and liver.
People with a weakened immune system have an increased risk of developing septic shock.
- newborn babies
- elderly people
- pregnant women
- people with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, cirrhosis or kidney failure
- people with lowered immune systems, such as those with HIV or AIDS or those receiving chemotherapy
Symptoms of septic shock
Symptoms of septic shock include:
- low blood pressure (hypotension) that makes you feel dizzy when you stand up
- a change in your mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
- nausea and vomiting
- cold, clammy and pale skin
Septic shock is a medical emergency.
Treating septic shock
Generally, you will be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) so your body's functions and organs can be supported while the infection is treated. In some of the cases, treatment can start in the emergency department.
Treatment may include:
- oxygen therapy
- liquids given directly through a vein (intravenously)
- medication to increase your blood flow
- surgery (in some cases)
You will be given oxygen through a face mask, a tube inserted into your nose, or an endotracheal tube inserted into your mouth to help you breathe more easily. If you have severe shortness of breath, a mechanical ventilator may be used.
Increasing blood flow
You will probably be given fluids directly into a vein. This will help raise your blood pressure by increasing the amount of fluid in your blood.
You may be prescribed inotropic medicines or vasopressors to increase the blood flow to your vital organs, such as your brain, liver, kidneys and heart.
Inotropic medicines (inotropes), like dobutamine stimulate your heart. As a result, they increase the strength of your heartbeat that helps one to have oxygen-rich blood in his tissues and organs, where it's needed.
These medicines will make your blood vessels narrow further increasing your blood pressure and the flow of blood around your body. Further, this will allow your vital organs to start functioning properly.
Antibiotics are often used to treat the associated bacterial infection. The type of antibiotic used depends on the type of bacterial infection and where in the body the infection started.
You will have to take some of the antibiotics immediately to increase your chances of survival. Initially, two or three types of antibiotics may be used. The most effective type of antibiotic can be used once the bacteria which is responsible for the infection is identified.
In major cases of sepsis or septic shock, the large decrease in blood pressure and blood flow can kill organ tissue. If this happens, surgery may be required to remove the dead tissue.