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Septicemia - Difference, Causes, Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Published on May 18, 2022   -  4 min read


Septicemia or bacteremia is a life-threatening response to the bacteria in the blood due to severe infections. Read the article below to know more.


What Is Septicemia?

Septicemia, which is sometimes known as blood poisoning, is an infection that occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread during severe infections.

What Is the Difference Between Septicemia and Sepsis?

Septicemia is the infection that occurs when bacteria or other microorganisms enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. It is more common among people with chronic medical conditions and hospitalized patients. The body’s extreme reaction to this event is known as sepsis. Sepsis may progress to septic shock and cause death. The death rate associated with septic shock can be as high as 50 % and primarily depends on the involved organism. Sepsis must be considered a medical emergency as it may require immediate medical intervention. If treatment is delayed, sepsis can lead to progressive tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

Who Is at a Higher Risk of Developing Septicemia?

Septicemia is more common among the following people:

What Are the Primary Organisms Involved in Septicemia?

The primary causative organisms include:

What Are the Causes of Septicemia?

Septicemia can be caused by the presence of bacteria, viruses, or fungi that enter the bloodstream through any of the following ways:

What Are the Signs of Septicemia?

Each person may experience different symptoms. Early symptoms of septicemia are:

Septicemia when it results in sepsis may lead to the formation of a hemorrhagic rash, a cluster of small spots of blood that look like pinpricks in the skin. If it is not treated, the rash gets bigger gradually and starts to look like a fresh bruise. The bruises can join together and form larger areas of purple-colored skin, which is a sign of damage and discoloration.

As septicemia progresses very quickly to sepsis, the person may rapidly become very ill and show the following symptoms:

Severely ill patients with sepsis, a complication of septicemia, may develop some of the signs of meningitis.

How Is Septicemia Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of septicemia is based on:

Depending on the symptoms, other tests may be needed to assess the damage to tissues and organs. To diagnose septicemia, the healthcare provider may look for various physical findings such as fever, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, and respiratory rate. Tests to assess the signs of infection and organ damage may also be performed. However, septicemia may be hard to identify in the initial stages as some of the symptoms like fever and difficulty breathing can often be seen in other conditions.

What Is the Treatment for Septicemia?

The treatment for septicemia will be determined based on the following factors:

Septicemia can progress to sepsis, which, in turn, may result in a life-threatening emergency that may require immediate medical intervention. In emergencies, the patients are hospitalized, and treatment is started as early as possible. Treatment includes prescribing antibiotics for the specific microorganisms causing the infection and treating the disease.

If the septicemia is caused by a virus or fungi, specific antiviral or antifungal medicines are prescribed. Care must be taken to ensure proper blood flow to the organs. Certain patients may require oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids to help get blood flow and oxygen to the affected organs. Patients who are highly debilitated may require advanced machines like a ventilator or kidney dialysis unit to manage the complications. Surgery is only done when tissue is damaged due to an infection that needs to be removed.

How to Prevent Septicemia?

One of the best ways to prevent an infection is by strictly following infection control behaviors like hand washing. Handwashing must be done often with clean, running water for at least 20 seconds.

Hands must be washed:

A person can lessen their chances of developing septicemia by:


If treatment is effective and timely, one can start to feel better in a few weeks to months. Patients with more complex disease presentations may take longer to recover. The symptoms of septicemia may resemble other conditions or medical ailments. Therefore, It is essential to seek professional medical help if presented with the signs of septicemia. If proper medical treatment is not provided, septicemia may eventually progress to sepsis and septic shock, which is often fatal. If a person has had septicemia in the past and has recovered, they have more chances of developing it again in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Causes Septicemia?

Septicemia is an infection of bacterial origin that spreads through the bloodstream. It can result in sepsis, the body's response to infection, which can cause organ damage and even death. Septicemia is more common in hospitalized patients or those with other medical conditions.


What Are the First Symptoms of Septicemia?

Septicemia symptoms usually appear quickly. However, a person can appear very ill even in the early stages. Symptoms may occur due to an injury, surgery, or another localized infection, such as pneumonia. The following are the most common initial symptoms:

- Chills.

- Fever.

- Very rapid breathing.

- Rapid heartbeat.


Is Septicemia Curable?

Septicemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early. Efforts are being made in research to find better ways to diagnose the condition earlier. Even with treatment, permanent organ damage is possible.


Is It True That Septicemia Always Results in Sepsis?

Although the terms septicemia and sepsis are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Sepsis is a potentially fatal complication of septicemia. Sepsis causes widespread inflammation in the body. This inflammation can lead to blood clots and prevent oxygen from reaching vital organs, ultimately leading to organ failure.


What Is the Distinction Between Bacteremia and Septicemia?

Bacteremia refers to the presence of bacteria in the blood, whereas septicemia refers to the presence of bacteria in the blood and their multiplication. Septicemia is also referred to as blood poisoning.


Is Septicemia a Blood Infection?

Septicemia, also known as sepsis, is the medical term for bacterial blood poisoning. It is the body's most severe reaction to infection. Depending on the organism involved, sepsis that progresses to septic shock has a death rate of up to 50 %.


Is It Possible for Septicemia to Resolve on Its Own?

With treatment, most people recover from sepsis. It can, however, have a long-term impact on a person's health, particularly if it has damaged organs or the immune system.


What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Septicemia in Adults?

There are a variety of symptoms associated with sepsis due to the several places on the body where it can occur. The most notable are:

- A rapid heartbeat.

- Fluctuating body temperature that ranges from fever to hypothermia.

- Confusion or disorientation.

- Warm or sweaty skin.

- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation.


Which Infections Are Capable of Causing Septicemia?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney infections, and lung infections, such as pneumonia, are the most prevalent illnesses that cause septicemia.


What Is Septicemia During Pregnancy?

Maternal sepsis is sepsis that occurs during pregnancy. Postpartum sepsis, also known as puerperal sepsis, occurs within six weeks of delivery. Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria are a common cause of maternal sepsis. GAS normally causes minor throat and skin infections, although it can also go unnoticed. However, bacteria can sometimes overcome the body's normal defense mechanisms and produce sepsis.


What Is Septicemia Blood Poisoning?

Septicemia is the medical term for bacterial blood poisoning. It is the body's most severe reaction to infection. Depending on the organism involved, sepsis that develops into septic shock has a fatality rate of up to 50 %. Therefore, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Sepsis can swiftly progress to tissue damage, organ failure, and death if not treated.

Last reviewed at:
18 May 2022  -  4 min read




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