Why does sepsis happen?


The condition is caused by the way the body responds to micro-organisms such as bacteria, getting into your body. This infection may have started anywhere in your body. The infection may be only in one part of your body, or it may be widespread. It may have been from:

  • a chest infection causing pneumonia
  • a urine infection in the bladder
  • a problem in the abdomen, such as a burst ulcer or a hole in the bowel
  • an infected cut or bite
  • a wound.

Sepsis can be caused by a huge variety of different bacteria – some of these you might have heard of, such as streptococcus, E-coli, MRSA, C diff. Most cases of sepsis are 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


People get infections all the time, which can make them feel ill but they then get better without needing treatment in hospital. Sepsis can develop following chest infection, urine infections and other minor illnesses. However, other patients develop sepsis, which means they become seriously ill and need hospital treatment straight away.


What Sepsis does to your body


To begin with, you may have felt like you were developing a flulike illness. You may have:

  • felt very cold and shivery
  • felt very hot and looked flushed
  • had a high temperature
  • had aching muscles
  • felt very tired
  • have had sickness and / or diarrhoea (upset stomach)
  • not felt like eating
  • seemed confused or drunk, or had slurred speech.


Who is at risk of getting Sepsis?


We do not always know why the body responds in this way and often people who get sepsis are in good health and do not have any long-term illness. People are more likely to develop sepsis after a viral illness like a cold, or a minor injury. However, there are some groups of people who are more likely to get sepsis, such as if you:

  • are very young or very old
  • are diabetic
  • are on long-term steroids or on drugs to treat cancer (chemotherapy)
  • have had an organ transplant and are on anti-rejection drugs
  • are malnourished (your body hasn’t had enough food)
  • have serious liver disease
  • have a serious illness which affects your immune system (the way your body protects itself from

infection), for example leukaemia

  • have an infection or a complication after an operation
  • are pregnant or have just given birth.
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