Sepsis is dangerous. Unfortunately, for former President Bill Clinton, he had to learn this the hard way. President Clinton was admitted to the intensive care unitl (ICU) at UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif. for a urinary tract infection (UTI) that spread to his bloodstream, developing into this potentially fatal condition. Around 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis each year and nearly 270,000 Americans die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Clinton is currently being monitored and receiving appropriate treatment of antibiotics and IV fluids.
Sepsis and urinary tract infections in men
Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to an infection. It is life-threatening, and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have – in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, or somewhere else – triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.
A UTI occurs when bacteria in the urethra, bladder, or kidneys multiply in the urine. According to the National Kidney Foundation, one particular bacteria, E. coli, causes 80 to 90 percent of all cases of UTIs.
UTIs are not as common in men as in women. At least half of all women will develop a urinary tract infection during their lifetime compared to only 12 percent of men.
Men who are more likely to develop a UTI include those who:
- Have a medical issue that traps bacteria or interferes with fighting infections, such as a suppressed immune system or a urinary tract blockage
- Use a urinary catheter
- Have bacteria already present in the body, which poses a risk of it spreading
Despite the low rate of UTIs in men, it is important to know the signs and symptoms to avoid a potentially dangerous infection. UTI symptoms include:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Cloudy urine
- A feeling that the bladder is full, even after urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Foul smelling urine
Generally, most bacteria that enter into the urinary tract are washed out when a man urinates. But, if bacteria are not completely eliminated, and stay in the urinary tract, a UTI can develop. A UTI of the bladder or urethra (the lower urinary tract) can also affect the kidney and ureters (the upper urinary tract).
While most UTIs are treated successfully with antibiotics, if the infection is not identified and is left untreated, it can move to the kidneys and ureters and may cause sepsis. Sepsis that results from an untreated urinary tract infection is generally called urosepsis, which is a serious complication and should be treated as a medical emergency.
Symptoms of urosepsis
When a UTI spreads beyond the bladder and becomes urosepsis, symptoms include:
- Pain near kidney, or lower sides of back
- Reduce urine volume
- Trouble breathing
- Weak pulse
- High fever or low temperature
- Changes in heart rate, such as rapid breathing
How is urosepsis diagnosed and treated?
Anyone experiencing symptoms of urosepsis, should call their doctor or go to an emergency room immediately. Inform the medical personnel it could be urosepsis – the quicker the diagnosis is made and then treated, the greater the chance of survival will be.
Sepsis is diagnosed through medical findings, such as fever, along with lab tests, such as analysis of a urine sample. If it’s suspected the infection has spread, blood tests will be ordered, possibly along with blood cultures, x-rays, and other imaging tests.
A patient with urosepsis is usually treated in the hospital with broad-spectrum antibiotics, close monitoring, and plenty of fluids to help flush out the urinary tract. Depending on symptoms, some patients may receive oxygen and intravenous fluids to maintain normal blood oxygen levels and blood pressure, and/or surgery to get rid of the source of the infection.
Long-term effects of sepsis
People who survive urosepsis will often go on to recover completely with no complications. However, some people may suffer permanent organ damage, particularly if they had a pre-existing condition.
How to prevent sepsis
The best way to avoid sepsis is knowing how to prevent it. The more precautions you take, the greater the likelihood you can dodge this potentially serious condition.
How to lower your risk of developing sepsis:
- Get vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia, and any other infections that could lead to sepsis.
- Prevent infections that can lead to sepsis by cleaning scrapes and wounds with soap and water as soon as you can. Also, practice good hygiene with frequent hand washing and regular bathing.
- If you have an infection, watch for signs of fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, and disorientation.
- If you are hospitalized, make sure visitors and all healthcare providers who come near you wash their hands before they touch you or any medical equipment. However, sepsis, or the infection that causes it, starts outside the hospital in nearly 87 percent of cases.
- If prescribed an antibiotic for an infection, be sure to finish the medication.
Dr. David Samadi is one of America’s leading prostate surgeons, a New York City based board-certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon, and the Director of Men's Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. Dr. Samadi is also the author of the men’s health and wellness book, “The Ultimate MANual,” Read Dr. David Samadi's Reports – More Here.
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