What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. Sepsis leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death especially if not recognized early and treated promptly.
Sepsis is caused by the way the body responds to germs, such as bacteria, getting into your body. The infection may have started anywhere in a sufferer’s body, and may be only in one part of the body or it may be widespread. Sepsis can occur following chest or water infections, problems in the abdomen like burst ulcers, or simple skin injuries like cuts and bites.
Sepsis can be caused by a huge variety of different bugs, most cases being caused by common bacteria which we all come into contact with every day without them making us ill. Sometimes, though, the body responds abnormally to these infections, and causes sepsis.
Different types of sepsis
Many people can have ‘mild’ sepsis which can make them feel ill but doesn’t require treatment in hospital. Mild sepsis can result from chest infections, urine infections and other minor illnesses.
However, other patients develop severe sepsis, which means they become seriously ill and need hospital treatment straight away.
How would I know if I had sepsis?
If you or a loved one had a suspected infection, or certain risk factors like being very young or old, diabetic, pregnant or on long-term steroids, then you would need to know what to look for. Early signs of a ‘flu-like illness, chest infection, diarrhoea and vomiting or inability to eat and drink, together with one of the symptoms of sepsis should be taken seriously. Our Symptom Checker card gives a list of 6 symptoms to look out for.
Why does sepsis matter?
Sepsis is one of our biggest killers! Shocking, since so few people are aware of it, but sepsis claims 37,000 lives every year in the UK and costs the NHS £2.5 billion a year. In comparison, breast cancer claims less than 8,000 lives a year. By helping us to ensure the reliable delivery of basic sepsis care (the ‘Sepsis Six’), you can help us to save 12,500 lives every year and reduce costs by an estimated £160 million.