Myths and Facts Surrounding Sepsis
Sepsis, the body’s reaction to an infection, can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death. In light of September being Sepsis Awareness Month, we’ve broken down the basics and cleared up some misconceptions surrounding sepsis.
1. Sepsis causes more deaths than prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined.
FACT. Sepsis is more common than most people realize. Over 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis each year and nearly 250,000 die from it. Sepsis creates a chain reaction throughout the body and, without timely treatment, can have lasting effects on the individual.
2. Sepsis only affects patients in hospitals.
MYTH. Sepsis can develop in any person with an infection, meaning many people may already be in a hospital. However, sepsis is a common reason why people seek care in an emergency room, even if they didn’t realize they had an infection. Anybody with an infection can be a victim of sepsis, regardless of whether they’re being treated for the infection already.
3. The symptoms of sepsis are very similar to those of other conditions.
FACT. Symptoms of sepsis include fever, weakness, shortness of breath, disorientation and clammy skin. These symptoms tend to go hand-in-hand with numerous other conditions as well, making it very difficult to diagnose sepsis early. Many times, patients will assume the onset of these symptoms are completely unrelated to infection. However, patients with unexplained fevers, malaise and confusion, especially in the setting of a new suspected or diagnosed infection, should seek care immediately.
4. Sepsis is rare and only affects people who already have a preexisting condition.
MYTH. While infants, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to sepsis, it can affect anyone. Anyone with an infection, from an inflamed paper cut to pneumonia, is potentially at risk. This is why it is so important to understand sepsis for all that it is, and to recognize the signs early on.
5. If detected and treated early, those who overcome it can go on to live healthy lives.
FACT. Although sepsis is a serious illness, people are often able to lead happy and healthy lives after receiving proper and timely care. Treatment may include antibiotics, IV fluids to maintain blood pressure and prevent significant organ damage, and monitoring in the intensive care unit. Some patients may require an operation or procedure to control the infection. The body and mind need time to recover as they would after any sickness, but after the initial healing period, people can maintain a healthy life.
Sepsis is known as the “silent killer,” and for a good reason. With such low awareness surrounding sepsis, it’s no wonder people don’t recognize it in their own bodies. This Sepsis Awareness Month, start the conversation about sepsis and spread the word. Learn more about sepsis from UF Health.