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Why Are Nursing Home Patients at Risk for Sepsis?

Posted on in Sepsis

Illinois nursing home injury attorneysDid you know that nearly two million people develop sepsis in the United States each year? While the condition can be treated successfully, more than 250,000 deaths are attributed to sepsis annually. That is more than the number of deaths caused by AIDS, prostate cancer, and breast cancer combined!

Unfortunately, nursing home patients are considered to be at increased risk for sepsis compared to the average person. To understand why this is true, you must first understand a little more about the condition.

Sepsis Is Not an Infection

The first thing you should know about sepsis is that it is not an infection, nor is it a bacterium, virus, parasite, or any other type of pathogen. Instead, it is a response to an infection. Put simply, a person can only develop sepsis if he or she has some type of infection.

When a disease-causing agent enters a person’s body, the body’s immune system goes to work in fighting it. A healthy immune system may be able to stop the agent from causing an infection while weakened immune systems might have significantly more trouble. If the infection does set in, however, the immune system does not give up. It moves on to fighting the infection directly.

In doing so, the body produces more white blood cells, along with certain chemicals to get rid of the infection. Medications like antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals can help the immune system fight. In most situations, the infection-fighting chemicals focus on the infection. Sometimes, however, the immune system sends these chemicals throughout the entire body, causing inflammation and turning the body against itself. Medical experts are not yet sure exactly why this happens, but this is the condition known as sepsis.

Sepsis-related inflammation can cause organ damage and trigger blood clots in the bloodstream. Blocked blood vessels deprive organs and limbs of oxygen and other vital nutrients. Extremely low blood pressure can send a person into septic shock, which can quickly become fatal.

Risk Factors

According to the Sepsis Alliance, the most common infections related to the development of sepsis are pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Sepsis can also develop from the flu (influenza) or an infected wound or sore—all of which are common afflictions for nursing home patients. In addition, many individuals who reside in nursing homes have immune systems that have been compromised either by other medical conditions or advanced age. Chronic conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or cirrhosis can also increase the risk of sepsis.

It is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to carefully monitor all patients, especially those who might be in danger of developing sepsis. Medical staff must be prepared to identify and treat infections and to watch for warning signs of sepsis to prevent the condition from worsening and potentially killing the patient.

Call an Illinois Nursing Home Neglect Attorney

If you have a loved one that developed sepsis in a nursing home and you believe that neglect or poor medical care was to blame, an experienced Chicago nursing home injury lawyer can help. Call 312-535-4625 to discuss your situation in a free consultation at Schwartz Injury Law today. We will help you explore your options for taking action.

 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sepsis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351214

https://www.sepsis.org/news/what-is-sepsis-what-it-is-and-what-it-isnt/

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