Im a doctor – here are eight red flag signs of a life-threatening condition
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Considered to be potentially life-threatening, sepsis occurs when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs.
Worryingly, the condition causes 11 million deaths globally every year, according to the UK Sepsis Trust.
Dr Chun Tang, Medical Director and GP at Pall Mall Medical, told Express.co.uk: “Early detection and treatment of sepsis are crucial for a better outcome.”
This makes symptom awareness front and centre, with the following red flags being able to ring alarm bells.
1. Fever or hypothermia
The doctor explained that sepsis can lead to an abnormal regulation of body temperature.
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While the body may raise its temperature (fever) in an attempt to fight the infection in the early stages, you can eventually experience abnormally low temperature, also known as hypothermia, as sepsis progresses.
2. Increased heart rate
The potentially life-threatening condition triggers a systemic inflammatory response, which can cause your blood vessels to dilate and your blood pressure to drop.
“The heart rate increases in an attempt to maintain adequate blood flow and oxygen delivery to the body’s vital organs,” Dr Tang said.
3. Rapid breathing
Similarly to an increased heart rate, rapid breathing is your body’s response to the drop in blood pressure and decreased oxygen delivery to tissues.
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Therefore, a high respiratory rate, with more than 20 breaths per minute, may be a warning sign of sepsis, according to the expert.
However, you can also experience laboured breathing and shortness of breath.
4. Confusion or altered mental state
The inflammation dealt by sepsis can also affect your brain, leading to cognitive changes, confusion, or altered consciousness.
5. Dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting
Because the condition can cause your blood pressure to drop, it can also spur on symptoms, including dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting, the doctor noted.
6. Skin changes
Dr Tang explained that poor blood circulation and tissue oxygenation caused by sepsis can trigger skin discolouration, often appearing as mottling or a bluish tint.
7. Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea
The inflammation from sepsis can also affect the normal function of your digestive system, leading to signs like vomiting and diarrhoea.
8. Pain or discomfort
The uncomfortable sign can appear as a result of localised infection, damage to organs or inflammation, which are all caused by the serious condition.
Dr Tang added: “It’s important to note that sepsis can develop rapidly, so if you or someone you know experiences any of these signs, especially in the context of an existing infection or recent medical procedure, seek immediate medical attention.”
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