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What is septic shock?

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Quick Answer

Septic shock is a complication that occurs when toxins initiate body-wide infections and inflammation, according to MedlinePlus. It is common in very old and very young people and individuals with weakened immune systems, explains Healthline.

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Full Answer

Bacteria, fungi and viruses may cause septic shock, reports MedlinePlus. The bacteria and fungi release toxins that cause tissue damage, low blood pressure and poor organ function. Some researchers believe that septic shock causes the formation of tiny blood clots that block nutrients and oxygen from reaching vital organs, notes Healthline. This leads to organ failure and may cause death.

Risk factors for septic shock include lymphoma, diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus, leukemia and recent infections, explains MedlinePlus. Other risk factors include bone marrow or solid organ transplant, recent surgery, recent use of steroid medication, and long-term use of antibiotics.

Septic shock affects various parts of the body, including the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and intestines, notes MedlinePlus. Symptoms include light-headedness, little to no urine, palpitations and paleness in arms and legs.

To diagnose septic shock, a doctor tests for low blood-oxygen levels and infection around the body, states MedlinePlus. Doctors also check for electrolyte imbalance and abnormal kidney or liver function, explains Healthline.

To treat septic shock, a doctor administers antibiotics intravenously to fight the infection, reports Healthline. He also gives the patient vasopressor medication to raise the blood pressure. The patient receives corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation and insulin to stabilize his blood sugar. The prognosis for septic shock is poor, as more than 50 percent of cases result in death.

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