Sepsis occurs when the immune system attempts to fight off an infection by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These chemicals may trigger inflammation throughout the body, especially when the immune system is weakened by illnesses, such as AIDS and cancer.
A wide variety of infections can lead to sepsis, but common triggers include appendicitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and MRSA, according to the CDC. Invasive medical treatments used to treat these infections, such as surgery or catheter insertion, often increase the risk of sepsis. Infants, young children and elderly people are have a high risk of developing sepsis as well as people suffering from chronic illnesses or severe burns.
Sepsis-related inflammation may cause blood clots, preventing healthy blood circulation and depriving organs of oxygen and nutrients, states WebMD. Severe sepsis leads to organ failure and dangerously low blood pressure, sending the body into a state of shock. Depending on where the infection starts, sepsis may cause fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Some individuals also develop mental confusion, rapid pulse, rapid breathing or low body temperature. Physicians use blood tests and imaging tests to detect changes in white blood cell count, platelet count, blood pressure and blood acidity. They also search for traces of bacteria in the blood and signs that the kidneys are malfunctioning.