When bacteria invade the bloodstream, the condition is termed as 'blood infection'. It is also known as bacteremia. It is considered to be a life-threatening infection because of the complication it causes, i.e., sepsis. During mild infections, the body triggers the release of chemicals into the bloodstream to eliminate the bacteria, which causes an inflammation only at the infected site. Once the job is done, the inflammation subsides gradually.
However, the story is different with bacteremia. Here, the body gets so overwhelmed by the presence of bacteria in the blood that its inflammatory reaction to deal with the problem gets exaggerated. Due to this, the inflammation gets so intense that it starts spreading beyond the infected site to the whole body. This immune response is known as sepsis, and in most cases, it is known to be a life-threatening condition. As the inflammation progresses, it starts affecting the organs, causing them to become dysfunctional gradually. At one stage, the person is said to be in a 'septic shock', a condition in which there is an intense drop in blood pressure, which could be seriously fatal.
Certain Factors Responsible
➜ Bacteria, and in fact many other pathogens, can enter the bloodstream by means of something as mild as a scraped elbow or knee, a broken cuticle, etc.
➜ Even medical procedures involving the use of catheters, permanent IV line, or something like a dental tooth brushing can lead to the infection of the blood causing bacteremia and finally sepsis.
➜ Other possible causes may include herpes, urinary tract infection, and certain types of cancer. It could also be a complication of a surgery.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms that may be indicative of an infection of the blood include:
- The temperature of the body may be more than 38.5ºC or may be below 35ºC.
- Heart beats become faster than normal (usually more than 90 beats per minute).
- Urination may decrease or become infrequent.
- One experiences nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Reduced alertness or increased confusion are the severe signs of this infection.
➜ Treatment options help in preventing the infection from reaching the sepsis stage or prevent the sepsis from turning into a life-threatening situation.
➜ The immediate step in the treatment involves the administration of antibiotics, which is given intravenously (IV). The intervention starts even before the doctor is able to identify the specific infection-causing bacteria.
➜ So that is why, the antibiotics administered are strong enough to combat different types of bacteria. Once the particular bacterium gets identified, the treatment may switch to a different antibiotic that would specifically target the causal bacteria.
➜ As mentioned before, blood infection tends to cause a severe drop in the blood pressure of the infected person. So, to prevent this from happening, doctors prescribe medicines that constrict the blood vessels, thereby helping in the increase of blood pressure.
➜ In some people, infection could be caused by a medical device, intravenous lines, and other such equipment. So for them, a surgery may be advised to get rid of such sources.
What we can conclude from the above explanation is that it is not the infection that is a cause of worry, but the immune response of the body leading to sepsis. This, if left untreated, can easily take its toll on the life of the ailing person. So, do not overlook the symptoms and start an early treatment upon being diagnosed with this medical condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.