What is sepsis?

Know the Risks.  Spot the Signs.  Act Fast.

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Sepsis happens when an infection you already have —in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.

Without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

Animation on how sepsis happens.


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What causes sepsis?

When germs get into a person’s body, they can cause an infection. If that infection isn’t stopped, it can cause sepsis.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get an infection and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Certain people are at higher risk:

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Adults 65 or older

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People with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease

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People with weakened immune systems

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Children younger than one

What are the signs & symptoms?

A patient with sepsis might have one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

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High heart rate

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Confusion or disorientation

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Extreme pain or discomfort

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Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold

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Shortness of breath

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Clammy or sweaty skin

I think I might have sepsis. What should I do?

If you are feeling worse or not getting better in the days after surgery, ask your healthcare professional, “Could this be sepsis?

Similarly, if you have an infection that is not getting better or is getting worse, ask your healthcare professional, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”

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