Sepsis is a serious complication of infection that millions of individuals are diagnosed with every year. Also known as blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s reaction of infection or injury, but can be life-threatening for individuals with compromised immune systems. Sepsis in the elderly is the most dangerous form, and often results in hospitalization and even death. One of the primary factors contributing to the risk of sepsis in the elderly is the fact that many elderly individuals have additional chronic health conditions, which stifles their body’s ability to fight infection.
According to a study published in journal “Clinical Infectious Diseases”, as much as 60 percent of all sepsis cases in the United States occur among individuals age 65 or older. This percentage is staggering in light of the fact that elderly individuals make up a relatively small portion of the overall population of the U.S. Research also indicates that nearly half of a studied population diagnosed with sepsis required continued care in a nursing home following hospitalization for sepsis.
How to Recognize Sepsis in the Elderly
Researchers and healthcare providers emphatically reiterate the importance of early detection and treatment to promote a positive outcome for individuals with sepsis. One of the most consistent factors in individuals with sepsis is the presence of one or more other chronic illnesses, such as:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
These conditions themselves may not causes sepsis, but they often limit the immune system of the patient, which can contribute to the acquisition and development of sepsis. Common conditions that directly result in sepsis include pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTI), or respiratory illness. An injury or illness as simple as a bug bite or the flu can also result in sepsis if infection is not recognized and treated immediately.
Symptoms of Sepsis in the Elderly
Some of the most common symptoms of sepsis include:
- Increased heart rate of 90 beats per minute (BPM) or higher
- Increased breathing rate of 20 breaths per minute or higher
- Diagnosis or suspicion of Blood Pressure infection or other illness
- Fever of 101.3 or higher
- Chills, weakness, or changes in mental ability
- Discoloration of skin
- Low platelet count
In addition to these symptoms, any instances of extremely cold skin or dangerously low blood pressure compounded with any of these symptoms could indicate septic shock. Septic shock is a dangerous condition that is often difficult to treat to a point of full body restoration.