Sepsis, bacteremia and the risk of septic shock (life-threatening low blood pressure)

Sepsis, bacteremia and the risk of septic shock (life-threatening low blood pressure)Sepsis and bacteremia increase the risk of septic shock, which leads to life-threatening low blood pressure. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection that occurs when chemicals are released into the blood stream to fight off infection, triggering inflammatory responses through the body. This inflammation can lead to many changes that can result in organ damage and failure.

When sepsis progresses to septic shock it triggers severely low blood pressure, which can lead to death.


Sepsis is most commonly found in older adults, although it can affect anyone. If sepsis is treated early with antibiotics, recovery and avoidance of complications is possible.

Bacteremia is the presence of bacteria within the bloodstream. Bacteremia is what can trigger sepsis and body inflammation.

Sepsis vs. septic shock

Sepsis can progress to severe sepsis or septic shock. In severe sepsis, organs begin to malfunction and blood flow becomes reduced. In septic shock, blood pressure levels drop dramatically and even with treatment do not return back to normal.

Severe sepsis and septic shock both occur from the original condition of sepsis. It is complications of sepsis that can lead to severe sepsis or septic shock.

Causes of sepsis

Causes of sepsisSepsis is mainly caused by bacteremia, which can occur from ordinary activities such as vigorous tooth brushing, dental or medical procedures, or infections like pneumonia. Bacteremia can also occur when you have artificial joints or heart valve abnormalities, kidney infections or abdominal infections.

Sepsis is highest among older adults and/or those with a weakened immune system.

Sepsis symptoms

There are three stages of sepsis: sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock. Each phase of sepsis has its own symptoms.

In sepsis the following symptoms can be seen:

  • Body temperature over 101°F (38.3°C) or below 98.8°F (36°C)
  • Heart rate over 90 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate over 20 breaths a minute
  • Probable or confirmed infection

Symptoms of severe sepsis include:

  • Decrease in urine output
  • Abrupt changes in mental state
  • Decrease in platelet counts
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal heart pumping function
  • Abdominal pain

The main difference in symptoms between severe sepsis and septic shock is the presence of extremely low blood pressure.

Sepsis treatment

Early treatment is essential to prevent septic shock and other complications of sepsis. Early treatment involves either antibiotics or vasopressors to fight off infection or constrict blood vessels in order to bring up blood pressure. Corticosteroids and insulin may also be used in treatment to stabilize blood sugar and modify the immune system response.

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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.