What is Sepsis?
Sepsis occurs when the body’s immune system starts damaging otherwise healthy tissue and organs when it’s reacting to an injury or infection. Often, sepsis will decrease the blood supply to these areas and can result in septic shock, multiple organ failure and ultimately death.
Sepsis can be caused by an infection at any site in your body, as well as contamination to the lungs, abdomen, pelvis or urinary tract. It often manifests following surgery or a long stay in hospital; infected bed sores being a particularly common source of sepsis.
What are the Symptoms of Sepsis?
The early symptoms to look out for if you suspect sepsis are:
- Fever or flu-like symptoms. Alternatively, unusually low body temperature is also an indicator
- Severe shivering and chills
- Rapid heart rate
- Fast breathing
If septic shock develops as a result of sepsis, the symptoms might include:
- A very low or very high temperature
- Dizziness or fainting
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Difficulty passing water
- Cold arms and legs
- Severe muscle pains
- A change of mental state, such as confusion
- Loss of consciousness
What Should I Do If I Suspect Sepsis?
If you or someone you know are feeling very ill and displaying any of these symptoms, there’s a chance it could be sepsis. In this case, you should seek immediate medical help, as the sooner it’s diagnosed and treated, the better chance of recovery.
As the condition worsens, sepsis can bring complications including heart, kidney or respiratory failure, blood clots forming in vital organs and limbs, organ failure and gangrene. The latter can require amputation and even lead to death. So it’s vital you get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible.
What If I Contracted Sepsis in Hospital or it Wasn’t Diagnosed?
If you contracted sepsis while in hospital as a result of substandard care, or your condition wasn’t diagnosed, leading to further complications and long-term health problems or disability, you may be entitled to claim medical negligence compensation.
If a family member has died after contracting sepsis under similar circumstances, you may also be able to make a claim on their behalf.
Sepsis Statistics UK
According to the UK Sepsis Trust, at least 250,000 people in the UK contract sepsis every year. Some 44,000 of these will die and 60,000 will suffer permanent and life-changing after-effects.
But the Sepsis Trust believes awareness of sepsis among both the public and healthcare professionals is “astonishingly low”, even though earlier diagnosis and treatment could “prevent at least 14,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the UK and save millions of pounds”.
Soaps Raising Sepsis Awareness
The profile of sepsis has been given a huge boost in the last year or so thanks to major storylines in two of the country’s biggest soap operas. Hollyoaks character Lily McQueen died after developing sepsis as a result of self-harming – a vivid demonstration to the viewing public of how a wound infection can result in sepsis.
And just last year, Coronation Street told the story of young Jack Webster developing sepsis after grazing his knee while playing football, with his sepsis condition being so severe that doctors had to amputate his leg to save his life.
Soap operas can help to educate millions of people on matters they may know little about. And that can include medical professionals, who may find themselves more likely to recognise the symptoms of sepsis in the future thanks to what they’ve seen on TV.
We’ve seen before how high-profile issue-led storylines on soaps can have an impact in the real world. For instance, after Coronation Street character Aidan Connor committed suicide last year, suicide prevention charity Papyrus’s helpline had its busiest ever day.
We can only hope that something similar happens as a result of these recent sepsis storylines, with more members of the public and healthcare professionals recognising the signs of sepsis and understanding what to do.
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