World Sepsis Day - Spreading Awareness for the UK's Silent Killer
Every year, on September 13th, we join the conversation to raise awareness for World Sepsis Day. A day dedicated to raising awareness about a condition that quietly claims the lives of at least 11 million people worldwide annually.
Sepsis is often referred to as the silent killer with only 7% to 50% of the population being aware of what sepsis is and the signs and symptoms. This alarming lack of awareness, worldwide is a significant obstacle in the fight against a disease that can often go unnoticed or misdiagnosed due to it’s flu like symptoms.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's response to an infection becomes dysregulated, leading to widespread inflammation and organ dysfunction. Early detection and treatment of sepsis are crucial for a better outcome.
Some red flag signs and symptoms of sepsis are:
Fever or Hypothermia -
Sepsis can lead to an abnormal regulation of body temperature. In the early stages, the body may raise its temperature (fever) in an attempt to fight the infection. However, as sepsis progresses, it can disrupt the body's ability to maintain a stable temperature, leading to hypothermia. A high fever (temperature above 38.3°C) or abnormally low body temperature (below 36°C) can be an indicator of sepsis.
Increased Heart Rate -
Sepsis triggers a systemic inflammatory response. Inflammation causes blood vessels to dilate, leading to a drop in blood pressure. The heart rate increases in an attempt to maintain adequate blood flow and oxygen delivery to the body's vital organs. A significantly increased heart rate (tachycardia) with a resting heart rate over 90 beats per minute is a common sign.
Rapid Breathing -
Similar to an increased heart rate, rapid breathing is the body's response to the drop in blood pressure and decreased oxygen delivery to tissues. Faster breathing helps compensate for reduced oxygen levels. A high respiratory rate, with more than 20 breaths per minute, may indicate sepsis.
Confusion or Altered Mental State -
Sepsis can affect the brain by causing inflammation and decreased blood flow. This can lead to cognitive changes, confusion, or altered consciousness.
Low Blood Pressure -
Sepsis often results in a drop in blood pressure due to a combination of factors, including widespread inflammation, vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), and fluid leakage from blood vessels into surrounding tissues. Hypotension (low blood pressure) is a critical sign of sepsis. It may result in dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting.
Difficulty Breathing -
The inflammation and fluid shifts associated with sepsis can affect the lungs, leading to difficulty in exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, which results in laboured breathing and shortness of breath.
Abnormal Laboratory Values -
Sepsis can trigger various changes in blood tests. A high white blood cell count typically occurs as the body responds to infection, while a low platelet count can be a sign of impaired clotting. These changes are part of the body's response to the infection and inflammation.
Organ Dysfunction -
Sepsis can impair the function of vital organs like the kidneys, liver, and heart. Reduced urine output is a common sign of kidney dysfunction, while abnormal liver function tests indicate liver involvement. Abnormal clotting parameters can lead to bleeding or clot formation.
Skin Changes -
Poor blood circulation and tissue oxygenation in sepsis can cause skin discolouration, often appearing as mottling or a bluish tint.
Nausea, Vomiting, or Diarrhoea -
Gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, can result from the body's response to infection and inflammation, affecting the normal function of the digestive system.
Pain or Discomfort -
Sepsis-related pain may result from inflammation, localised infections, or damage to organs and tissues.
Elevated Lactate Levels -
When tissues are not receiving sufficient oxygen due to decreased blood flow (often seen in sepsis), they switch to anaerobic metabolism, producing lactic acid. Elevated blood lactate levels can indicate tissue hypoxia.
It's important to note that sepsis can develop rapidly, so if you or someone you know experiences any of these signs, especially in the context of an existing infection or recent medical procedure, seek immediate medical attention. Early intervention with antibiotics and other supportive measures can greatly improve the chances of recovery from sepsis.
Sepsis may be a silent killer, but our voices can be louder. We are joining the conversation to raise awareness about this often-misunderstood condition. By spreading our knowledge, and supporting those affected by sepsis, we can take significant steps toward reducing its devastating impact on individuals and families worldwide.
If you would like to speak with one of our GP's you can book a telephone, video or in-person appointment at Pall Mall as early as same day or next day.