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Septicemia is a dangerous condition that causes blood poisoning. It occurs due to a severe infection that causes inflammation throughout the body. The term septicemia has become obsolete as most of the doctors now use the term sepsis.

What is Septicemia?

Septicemia is a condition that occurs as the immune system’s response to severe infection caused by a bacteria. In some cases, it can occur due to a parasitic, viral or fungal infection of the lungs, skin, urinary tract or blood.

If left untreated, septicemia can lead to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. The patient needs to be kept in an intensive care unit and given aggressive treatment to increase the chances of survival. Septicemia is often fatal and in case of survivor’s it can lead to permanent damage to an affected organ, physical disability or can lead to cognitive impairment.

Symptoms of Septicemia

Symptoms of septicemia are often related to the symptoms of the infection. These symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Fast respiration or heart rate
  • Chills

As the condition progresses, it leads to:

  • Mental confusion
  • Appearance of red dots on the skin
  • Low urine output
  • Increase in blood sugar levels
  • High heart rate
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Respiratory alkalosis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Bruising
  • Intense bleeding
  • Shock

Causes of Septicemia

Infection of the lungs, the abdomen and the urinary tract usually cause septicemia. The infection is usually caused due to a bacterial agent, most commonly gram-negative bacteria. Other agents that cause septicemia include fungi, viruses and parasites.

Diagnosis of Septicemia

In case of suspected septicemia, diagnostic tests include serum lactate measurements, blood cultures: aerobic and anaerobic, urinanalysis, cerebrospinal fluid culture, etc. One may even analyze oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

Treatment for Septicemia

Septicemia is a medical emergency. Thus, requires hospital admission and intensive care unit (ICU) care. The treatment includes use of broad spectrum antibiotics within 1 hour of diagnosis. Intravenous fluids are given according to the heart rate, blood pressure and urine output measured. Ventilation is given in case of reduced oxygen demand.

Prognosis for Septicemia

Severe septicemia proves to be fatal in 35% of the cases. Death occurs in 30 to 70% people with septic shock. Those who survive may suffer from long-term cognitive decline or other permanent damage to an organ.

Septicemia is the leading cause of death globally. If one suspects an infection, they should visit their doctor right away. An infection can blow into a severe case and lead to septicemia before you even know it. Thus, getting an infection treated as soon as possible is the best way to prevent septicemia.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 06, 2015