Septicemia --- Signs and Top 9 Risks

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November 6, 2012, last updated May 21, 2014

By Joey Carney, Contributing Columnist



Septicemia, also known as blood infection, is a life-threatening
condition that occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream.  Left
untreated it can easily turn into a more serious condition known as
sepsis, affecting over a million Americans every year, according to
the Global Sepsis Alliance.  Although not widely understood (fewer
than half of Americans have heard of this disease), it is becoming
increasingly common and of vital importance to get immediate
medical attention when you show symptoms. Of those million
Americans affected by sepsis, 215,000 will die. What exactly
causes sepsis? Can you do anything to lower your risk?

Who Gets Septicemia and Sepsis?

The most susceptible are the very young or old, those with a
weakened immune system , for example, due to chemotherapy
medication or inflammatory conditions, or those with large
wounds or injuries. It can, nevertheless, affect anyone. Since
bacteria is very abundant in the world, there are a myriad of ways
for this bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Once the initial signs
are recognized and the patient shows obvious signs of infection,
the presence of septicemia is confirmed by bacterial growth in a
blood sample. But it is important that you learn to recognize these
initial signs, as timely treatment can mean the difference between
life and death.

Signs of Septicemia

Since there are very few parts of the human body that don’t carry
blood, septicemia can begin anywhere. Because of this, there isn’t
a single and simple diagnosis.

However, septicemia usually begins with chills, high fever, rapid
breathing, a rapid heart rate, and the general the appearance of
being very ill. It is best not to wait at this point, as the condition
can very rapidly progress to confusion, changes in one’s mental
state, red spots on the skin, and shock.

Once you’re with a doctor,  he or she may test for
low blood
pressure, a low body temperature or fever.  Your doctor may also
order a blood culture, blood gases, complete blood count , clotting
studies, platelet count, urine culture, or various other tests.

Those most vulnerable to septicemia are those who have recently
had an operation, bad burns, or an internal injury.
Untreated boils
can also introduce bacteria into your blood and cause sepsis.

There are various remedies for septicemia, depending on the initial
cause and severity. However, once septicemia has become general
or sepsis, you have a medical emergency and will need treatment,
usually in the intensive care unit of a hospital. If you ever suspect
you have septicemia, no matter how mild, you should immediately
seek medical help. Time is not your friend.  

Top 8 Risks for Septicemia





























1.        
Dental Treatments Can Lead to Septicemia. Now, here's
another excuse to fear dentists. Infection of the mouth, or teeth,
when untreated by antibiotics, can cause septicemia. This is very
common when, for example, a dentist is removing cavities or an
otherwise affected tooth, and a strep infection occurs.
The strep bacteria then enters the bloodstream and then the
heart, creating blockages—a dentist-induced heart attack.

The treatment for this condition is largely preventative: people
with heart conditions can take antibiotics before dental surgery or
infections in the mouth are thoroughly cleaned. Once Septicemia
has developed, however, doctors will use blood pressure
medication, antibiotics to treat the infection, plasma or other blood
products to fix clotting problems, or in severe cases, open heart
surgery. (Read more about
how to kill the bacteria between your
teeth.)

A 2012 case study by the KCH NHS Foundation Trust in London
describes a patient with simple dental surgery that deteriorated
into severe sepsis in a very short time. A few preventative
measures might have stopped it.

2.       
Infections of Cuts or Surgical Wounds Can Lead to
Septicemia
. Open wounds increase your chances of septicemia.
Why? Because blood loss lowers the body’s natural immunities.
These wounds may begin to feel hot, look red, have red streaks
coming from them, or drain excessive amounts of pus.


The increasing number of corrective surgeries may be the reason
for the increasing number of septicemia cases in America, as
evidenced by the Heathcare Cost and Utilization Project. Since
many people now go home within a day or two after surgery, self-
examination is the key to preventing severe sepsis. The remedy,
unfortunately, is returning to the hospital. But the reward is not
dying.


3.        
Burns Can Lead to Sepsis.  Burns are another leading cause
of
septicemia, especially more severe burns. The larger the burn,
the more vulnerable one is to infection. Third degree burns often
damage nerve endings, causing people not to feel pain or be
aware of infection. Like cuts, it is very important to examine the
wound and be aware of signs of infection—pus, markings, etc. A
2012 study from the American University of Beirut Medical Center
cautioned that serious burns can lead to both cardiovascular
dysfunction and general sepsis.   

When it comes to healing from burns, surprising research has
discovered that the
amount of muscle mass you have before you
get burned is a huge factor in determining who survives.

4.      
Internal Injuries Can Cause Septicemia. Internal injury can
cause septicemia. What types of injuries? Injuries such as a
stomach injury after a car accident, intestinal rupture, gall bladder
disease, or the appendix or spleen rupturing. These injuries are
usually treated with antibiotics from the onset (the standard
remedy for septicemia) since blood is immediately exposed to
dangerous bacteria levels. This is especially prevalent in intestinal
injuries, where juices from the bowels spill into other parts of the
body. Again, in the case of your bowels rupturing, there isn’t
much that can be done in the way of natural medicines. A 2012
study by Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University in Germany found that
certain steroids may be useful for treating such types of infections,
but as of now antibiotics are still the only effective remedy.


5.       
Children Are More Vulnerable  to Septicemia. Children are
particularly vulnerable to Septicemia because their body has not
built up the required defenses. There are, however, some clear
preventative measures which can be taken: The Haemophilus
influenza B (HIB) vaccine and S. pneumonia vaccine play an
important role in reducing the number of cases of septicemia in
children. Both are recommended childhood immunizations, but not
just important for children.


A 2012 article in Lakartidningen describes a 29 year old man who
had never received a pneumococcal vaccination and died of
sepsis.  Once septicemia has already developed, the only thing you
can do is recognize the signs and get immediate medical care.

6.       
Broken Bones?—Beware of Sepsis?

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Dental operations can introduce bacteria
into your blood stream if they're not done
properly, which can lead to septicemia.