Septic shock is a life-threatening condition that happens when your blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level after an infection.

Any type of bacteria can cause the infection. Fungi such as candida and viruses can also be a cause, although this is rare.

At first the infection can lead to a reaction called sepsis. This begins with weakness, chills, and a rapid heart and breathing rate.

Left untreated, toxins produced by bacteria can damage the small blood vessels, causing them to leak fluid into the surrounding tissues.

This can affect your heart's ability to pump blood to your organs, which lowers your blood pressure and means blood doesn't reach vital organs, such as the brain and liver.

People with a weakened immune system have an increased risk of developing septic shock.

This includes:

  • newborn babies
  • elderly people
  • pregnant women
  • people with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes , Cirrhosis or kidney failure
  • people with lowered immune systems, such as those with HIV or AIDS or those receiving chemotherapy

Symptoms of septic shock

Symptoms of septic shock include:

  • low blood pressure (hypotension) that makes you feel dizzy when you stand up
  • a change in your mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • cold, clammy and pale skin

Septic shock is a medical emergency. Dial 999 to ask for an ambulance if you think that you or someone in your care has septic shock.

Treating septic shock

You'll usually be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) so your body's functions and organs can be supported while the infection is treated.In some cases treatment may start in the emergency department.

Treatment may include:

  • oxygen therapy
  • fluids given directly through a vein (intravenously)
  • medication to increase your blood flow
  • antibiotics
  • surgery (in some cases)

Septic shock can be fatal because of complications like these.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 11 Aug 2016