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Understanding Post Sepsis Syndrome (PSS)

Sepsis is the body’s extreme immune response to an infection. Bacteria are the most common cause of an infection that leads to sepsis. The most common infections are pneumonia, abdominal infections, and urinary tract infections. Sepsis can lead to organ failure. When this happens, it needs to be treated in the intensive care unit at a hospital. In the worst case, sepsis can be life threatening. If a person survives sepsis, there can be long-term effects such as fatigue, decreased mental functioning, sleep problems, chronic pain, and even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is called post sepsis syndrome (PSS).

How post sepsis syndrome happens

Anyone can get sepsis but infants, children, and the elderly are at greater risk. Up to half of people who survive sepsis go on to get PSS.

The reason why some people get PSS and others don't is not well understood.

Symptoms of post sepsis syndrome

The symptoms of PSS may include:

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Chronic pain and weakness

  • Sleep problems such as insomnia and nightmares

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Vision changes

  • Decreased mental functioning

  • Memory loss

  • Loss of self-esteem

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Treatment for post sepsis syndrome

PSS is not yet well recognized by healthcare providers. This can make getting the right treatment a challenge. When recognized, treatment may include physical therapy and rehabilitation along with counseling and mental health support.

When to call your healthcare provider

If you’ve had sepsis, talk with your healthcare provider if you’re having symptoms that may suggest PSS, like ongoing fatigue and weakness, memory loss, or trouble concentrating.

Be aware of the symptoms of sepsis. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • New symptoms

  • Recurrent infections

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