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What is sepsis?

13 July, 2016

medicine pills

Sepsis is often in the news as it is commonly misdiagnosed and can lead to serious repercussions, with the potential to be fatal. England’s health watchdog has recently said that it should be treated ‘the same as heart attacks.’ But what is this silent killer, and how can you prevent sepsis misdiagnosis happening to you?

What is it?

Sepsis is a common but potentially life-threatening condition, often triggered by an infection. The body’s immune system overworks itself as a result, setting off reactions such as swelling, blood clots and inflammation. It can start anywhere in the body, and may stay in that part of the body, but could become more widespread. . It also decreases blood pressure, which can lead to multiple organ failure, and death. Sepsis can spread incredibly quickly, and it’s important to be aware of the symptoms so it can be treated as soon as possible. According to the UK Sepsis Trust around 44,000 die from Sepsis in the UK each year.



Common symptoms are:

  • High temperature or fever – it may be mistaken as flu
  • Chills and shivering
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Lethargic/tiredness
  • Sometimes a rash may develop
  • Difficultly passing urine despite being thirsty

More serious sepsis may also develop, this is known as septic shock. The symptoms of this are:

  • Dizziness and faintness
  • Disorientation and confusion (sometimes resulting in incoherence or slurred speech)
  • Sickness or nausea
  • Cold, clammy + pale or mottled skin

If you have had an infection or injury and you have any of these signs seek medical advice immediately by dialling 999 or going straight to your nearest hospital.

Most at risk

  • Those with a medical condition/ those undergoing medical treatment that weakens the immune system
  • Those already in hospital with a serious illness
  • Those who are young/old
  • Those who have just had surgery (this may include childbirth) or who have wounds/injuries as the result of an accident.

While these groups of people are most at risk, sepsis may also arise unexpectedly, and as a result it’s best to be aware of the symptoms.

How is it treated?

If sepsis is caught early it may be treated with a course of antibiotics. However, if it is left to develop and becomes more serious, you may be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

How can you help yourself?

It is possible to educate yourself on the signs of sepsis, so as to diagnose as early as possible. Insist on a blood test at the hospital or doctors surgery if you believe you have any of these symptoms. Don’t suffer in silence, it’s not worth the risk.

Need more advice?

If you or a family member have suffered sepsis misdiagnosis then you can speak to our experts today by calling First4lawyers on the number at the top of your screen or completing our online claims form.

Our friendly team will be able to give you an accurate appraisal, giving you all the information you need to be able to proceed with a compensation claim.

For more information on Sepsis you can visit the Sepsis Trust or NHS sepsis information pages.