Widespread is the erroneous thought

Blood poisoning (sepsis)Severe general infection caused by pathogens (mostly bacteria) that spread from a focal point (z.B. a wound) are constantly or episodically released into the bloodstream. A serious medical condition that must be treated in the clinic!

The beginning of blood poisoning (sepsis) is always a local infection, z.B. a wound or pneumonia. Normally, the body's defense system reacts against the pathogens (usually bacteria) and the infection is cured. In the case of sepsis, the body is unable to fight the infection, pathogens and their toxins spread through the bloodstream throughout the organism and gradually affect all organs. Only the infection in combination with an exaggerated reaction of the immune system lead to this dangerous chain reaction. Within a very short time, many bodily functions become unbalanced. In sepsis, a distinction is made according to severity:

There is a widespread misconception that blood poisoning can be identified by a red line that travels from a wound toward the heart. This symptom indicates an inflammation of the lymphatic vessels, a so-called. Lymphangitis, from which sepsis can develop, but for which there is a better chance of recovery.

The danger of blood poisoning should not be underestimated, as some cases are fatal due to delayed diagnosis. The timely recognition of sepsis is made difficult at the beginning by the ambiguous symptoms, which can also be the result of other diseases. In Germany, sepsis is the third most common cause of death, after cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Possible causes

Almost any infection by bacteria, parasites, viruses or fungi can be the trigger of sepsis – if the organism does not manage to fight it locally. Different sources of infection are, for example

There is an increased risk of sepsis in people with a weakened immune system, e.g., in children.B. due to HIV infection, chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer or drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants). Persons whose spleen has been removed are also at risk.

What you can do

A good and functioning immune system and prompt treatment of infections can prevent sepsis.

Strengthening the body's defenses through a healthy diet that provides the immune system with important nutrients, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Also sleep and sports, exercise in fresh air, alternating showers are good for the immune system. On the other hand, it is important to avoid overwork and to pay attention to relaxation, as stress weakens the immune system. Treat infections quickly. In particular, people with immunodeficiency or who are taking immunosuppressants should seek medical advice as soon as signs of inflammation become apparent. There is also the possibility of vaccination against common pathogens (z.B. Pneumococcus), which can be useful especially for people who have had their spleen removed.

When to see a doctor

Signs of blood poisoning can be varied, some characteristic symptoms are for example:

– Fever: the main symptom is an elevated body temperature (above 38.5 degrees Celsius), usually in combination with chills. Also possible is a lowered body temperature (below 36 degrees Celsius) – Accelerated breathing: rapid and shallow breathing – Rapid heartbeat: often the heartbeat is accelerated (pulse of more than 90 beats per minute) : z.T. if the blood prere is lowered (systolic blood prere – in the context of the blood prere measurement "upper" or "first value – below 90 mmHg) – renal dysfunction: Reduced urine output is an indication of this – Confusion: possibly the brain may be affected so that clouding of consciousness occurs, leading to disorientation and restlessness in the affected person

In addition, there may be symptoms of the particular infections causing the sepsis, such as z.B. in case of meningitis headache and stiff neck, in case of urinary tract infection discomfort during urination. At the slightest suspicion of blood poisoning, medical help should be sought quickly.

What your doctor can do for you

Due to the ambiguous symptoms at the beginning of sepsis, a quick diagnosis is often difficult. The physician first obtains an overview of the affected person's clinical picture by u. a. Blood prere, pulse, respiratory rate and body temperature are measured. It is necessary to find the source of infection. The following is a checklist that can be used to determine the severity of sepsis:

1. Blood test: pathogens (bacteria, parasites, viruses, fungi) present

2. Systematic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) when at least two of the following are present:

– fever body temperature higher than 38.5 degrees Celsius or. lower than 36 degrees Celsius (hypothermia) – heart rate more than 90 per minute (tachycardia) – respiratory rate more than 20 per minute (tachypnea) or hyperventilation – increased or. reduced concentration of white blood cells (leukocytosis resp. leukopenia)

3. Acute organ dysfunction if at least one item applies:

– Disease-related brain changes (encephalopathy) – Reduction in the number of blood platelets, relative or absolute, (thrombocytopenia), not due to bleeding or immune system disorders – Decreased oxygen content in the blood (arterial hypoxemia), not due to diseases of the heart or lungs

4. kidney dysfunction (renal dysfunction)

5. Metabolic acidosis (hyperacidity due to metabolism)

– Severe sepsis: items 1-3 apply – Septic shock: items 1 and 2 with concomitant systolic blood prere lower than 90 mmHg or mean arterial blood prere higher than 65 mmHg (for at least one hour)

Not in all cases can the source of infection be identified.

Possible therapy

Fast treatment of sepsis is required, as the clinical picture can deteriorate rapidly and become life-threatening. Frequently, treatment of sepsis takes place in hospital, often even in the intensive care unit. The focus is on treatment with antibiotics. If sepsis is diagnosed at an early stage, it is easily treatable with antibiotics.

– Fighting pathogens. If bacteria are the source of infection, mild sepsis is easily treatable with antibiotics. However, this is not sufficient in case of severe sepsis. – Stabilization of the circulation. With the help of infusions, doctors try to bring about normalization in the case of depressed blood prere. In the case of septic shock, drugs are also administered that cause blood vessels to constrict, thus increasing blood prere. – Medical treatment. Severe sepsis requires specific medications and measures to maintain organ function or to prevent the development of a disease. temporary replacement. Z.B. Treatment with insulin if blood glucose is derailed, artificial nutrition, dialysis if kidney function is inadequate, oxygen administration, ventilation, up to and including placing the patient in an induced coma for a specified period of time. – Remove focus of infection. Surgical measures can be used in this case, e.g. Replace contaminated implants, remove dead tie, irrigate inflamed areas, etc.


There is no 100% protection against blood poisoning, as pathogens are present everywhere and can cause infection. Why this heals in one case and not in the other ultimately remains an open question. It can be stated that on the one hand a good immune system and on the other hand the fast treatment of infections should be paid attention to.

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