Sepsis: Stages, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, and Treatment

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Sepsis is a medical emergency, a life-threatening condition that occurs as a complication of infection caused by the chemicals released by the microorganisms.

Sepsis is life-threatening condition that occurs as a complication of infection. It is caused by the widespread immune response against the chemicals released by the microorganisms. It is not actually the microbes that triggers the body wide inflammation, but rather the chemicals discharged by the microbes. The widespread inflammation may lead to organ damage. During sepsis, blood clotting occurs that may result to decreased or blocked blood flow to the limbs and other vital organs. In turn, these vital organs will not receive the oxygen and other essential nutrients it needs to function properly. In extreme cases, sepsis is known to cause organ failure. Sepsis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention to avoid complications from developing. Sepsis is also called septicemia.

Stages of Sepsis

                Sepsis has three stages that increases in severity. The identifies three levels are just as follows:

  • Sepsis
    • Infection reaches the bloodstream that results to body wide inflammation
    • Severe sepsis
      • Infection interrupts blood flow to the vital organs, such as the brain or kidneys, which may eventually lead to organ failure and gangrene (tissue death) of the extremities
      • Septic shock
        • Severe drop in blood pressure that may lead to heart, respiratory, or organ failure, or even death

Causes of Sepsis

Sepsis is acquired infections of the body. Bacterial infection is the most common cause, however, it can also be caused by viral and fungal infections. Some of the specific causes of sepsis include:

  • Appendicitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Meningitis
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Cellulitis
  • Cuts and scrapes in the skin
  • Surgical wounds
  • Bedsores

Risk Factors for Sepsis

Anyone can get sepsis, although certain persons are at greater risks for developing this complication, especially if they have a compromised immune system or at a particular age:

  • Diabetes
  • Undergoing cancer treatment
  • Use of certain drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Recent hospitalization
  • Newborn babies
  • Elderly

Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis

Because inflammation occurs in the whole body, it can affect many vital organs, thus it can have a range of signs and symptoms, which can include:

  • Fever and chills, although in some cases, there is a very low body temperature
  • Little urine output
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Quick breathing
  • Quick pulse

Treatment for Sepsis

Early detection of sepsis would greatly increase chances of surviving, as there is less chances that the infection has spread. Almost all cases of sepsis require admission to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for treatment. After determining the cause of sepsis, treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics for bacteria-caused sepsis
  • Intravenous fluids may be used to administer oxygen and large amount of fluids
  • Medications to increase blood pressure, called vaso pressin, may be given
  • In cases of kidney failure, dialysis is recommended
  • In cases of lung failure, a breathing machine is recommended

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing. To learn more about to how to manage sepsis, enrol in first aid training with a American or Canadian training provider.


Norwood, Varnada K. (2012, December 16). Sepsis (Blood Infection) and Septic Shock. WebMD. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from



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