Our bodies have a natural defense system for infections caused by microbes, including virus, fungi, or bacteria. Sometimes, however, these defense systems go into overdrive, creating a dangerous medical condition called sepsis. When your body is flooded with these immunity chemicals, the reactions can range from blood clots to organ failure.
Approximately 40 percent of those with sepsis die, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sepsis survivors may need kidney dialysis, an organ transplant, or have other lifetime medical issues.
There is no cure for sepsis, only treatment consisting of antibiotics, fluids, rest, and pain relievers.
Complications From Sepsis
The effects of sepsis range from moderate to life-threatening.
According to the Mayo Clinic, complications from sepsis include:
- Reduced or impaired blood flow to vital organs, including the heart, kidneys, and brain.
- Blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
- Tissue death in the arms, fingers, legs, and toes, which can lead to gangrene.
It usually takes several weeks and possibly months, to recover from sepsis. Some people, particularly those in high-risk groups, may have physical and cognitive impairments their entire life as a result.
Those at Greatest Risk for Sepsis
Sepsis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, although it can be triggered by a virus or fungi. Anyone can develop sepsis, but it tends to be more common in certain groups of people, particularly:
- Adults over 65 years old.
- Pregnant women.
- Infants up to one-year-old.
- People with chronic medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems—including those with cancer, AIDS, diabetes, lung disease, or kidney disease.
- People who have had organ transplants.
Your chances of surviving sepsis depend on how quickly you can receive treatment. There is no time to waste once sepsis symptoms are detected.
Symptoms of Sepsis
Sepsis is a secondary medical condition after you have received a diagnosis of a primary infection, such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.
The most common signs and symptoms of sepsis, according to the Mayo Clinic are:
- Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing (equal to or greater than 22 breaths per minute)
- Low blood pressure (a systolic pressure that is less than or equal to 100)
- Mental confusion
- Chills or shivering
- Extreme fatigue
- Feeling dizzy
- Low urinary output
- Pale or discolored skin
Doctors can diagnose sepsis after a physical examination. They might also order blood tests, lung function tests, and imaging tests, such as a chest X-ray or ultrasound.
Treatment of Sepsis
Most nursing homes cannot adequately treat sepsis. Patients should be transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital for prompt, aggressive treatment. Elderly patients need to be monitored closely for respiratory and heart function problems.
The typical medications used to treat sepsis include:
- Antibiotics starting with a broad-spectrum to fight a variety of bacteria until doctors can pinpoint the microbe that is causing the infection.
- Intravenous fluids to avoid complications of dehydration, which can further reduce one’s chance of recovery.
- Vasopressors that constrict the blood vessels and can help if one’s blood pressure is dangerously low.
- Additional care might include insulin if blood sugar levels are too low or too high; painkillers, sedatives, oxygen, and dialysis for kidney function.
Sepsis survivors need to rehabilitate, recover slowly, and rest often.
Long-Term Effects of Sepsis
Sepsis is one of the most debilitating medical conditions you may experience because it affects your entire body. It will take time to recover from the physical effects and the mental and emotional strain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who survived sepsis are likely to experience some of these common long-term effects of sepsis:
- Organ failure or dysfunction, such as lung problems, kidney disease, or heart disease
- Painful and/or disabling muscle and joint problems
- Impaired or decreased cognitive function
- Limb amputation of hands, arms, legs, or feet due to gangrene
- Lowered self-esteem
- Trouble sleeping and/or having nightmares
- Panic attacks
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Weight loss
- Dry skin, hair loss, and brittle nails
It may take your elderly loved one more time than a younger person to recover from sepsis. Help your loved one to set small and achievable goals. This makes them more willing to continue with their recommended rehabilitation and treatment.
Nursing Home Negligence and Sepsis
Nursing home residents are more susceptible to sepsis if they receive substandard care. If you believe your loved one developed sepsis as a result of nursing home abuse and neglect, a nursing home lawyer may be able to help.
The legal team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help you recover damages on a contingency basis. You pay nothing upfront or out-of-pocket unless we successfully reach a fair settlement on your behalf. We are a nationwide law firm that has helped many nursing home residents and their families seek the compensation and justice they deserve.
For a free case evaluation call (800) 842-6336 today.