When you hear of blood poisoning, you visualise your blood being poisoned by something. But it has nothing to do with poison in reality. It is a deadly condition and immediate treatment is the key to survival, which is why understanding it completely is important.

Blood poisoning is a deadly condition depending upon the type of bacterium causing the infection. There are so many patients who fail to diagnose their condition and ignore it for too long, which leads to an advanced stage of the condition. It is important to be aware of the condition so that you can alert your doctor as soon as you feel that something is not right.

Blood poisonising is commonly known as septicemia or sepsis, and is a life threatening infection that is caused by the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. An infection in any part of your body can lead to blood poisoning if the bacteria manage to escape and enter your bloodstream.

Sepsis occurs through a number of infectious agents, such as viruses, fungi, bacteria or parasites. Some of the most widely known reasons to cause sepsis are:

• An existing infection, usually in your abdomen, lungs or urinary tract.

• Contagious diseases such as cancer or diabetes that can increase the risk of blood poisoning.

• A needle or syringe that has been contaminated by an IV drug user.

Factors that increase the risk of being infected by blood poisoning are:

• A recent surgery or illness that needed hospital care.

• A weak immune system due to chemotherapy or cancer.

• Immune deficiency due to diabetes.

• Age, since elderly people are more prone to illness due to a frail immune system.

• Immunosuppressive conditions such as HIV infection.

• Medical healing with an invasive device.

• Unhygienic living conditions.

Symptoms of blood poisoning include:

• Fever, even if the body temperature is low.

• Chills and severe shaking.

• Increased heart rate and rapid breathing.

• Mental disturbances, such as confusion, disorientation and agitation.

• Pale and clammy skin.

• Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.

• Joint pain in their elbows, knees, wrists, back and hips.

• Advance symptoms of septicemia include rashes or dark red spots all over the body.

• Some patients who suffer severe sepsis also experience decreased urination.

• Patients may also face problems with bleeding or clotting.

It is difficult to self-diagnose blood poisoning. The best way to determine if you have sepsis is to immediately see a physician. Blood tests, urine tests, sputum tests, stool tests, x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or echocardiograms can be expected if you show similar symptoms.

If you have been diagnosed with blood poisoning, expect an aggressive treatment aimed at removing the initial infection. The patient might be observed in an ICU and IV antibiotics will be used to remove the bacterial infection from the blood. Oral antibiotics may also be given. Surgery is occasionally conducted to remove the infection. In case your blood pressure is low, you may be also be given vasopressors to maintain your blood pressure.

Blood poisoning can be prevented with vaccines, good hygiene and frequent hand washing to avoid the entry of harmful bacteria into the system. If infection occurs, get yourself treated immediately, before it spreads to your bloodstream. Early treatment improves the chance of survival.