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What is Blood Poisoning?

What is blood poisoning? How does this condition occur? How can it be treated? Is it a serious medical condition? Find out the answers to these and much more from the following article...
As believed by many ancient civilizations and various religions of the world, blood is indeed the life force of the body. True to its philosophical and literary symbolism, blood is the personification of that mystical energy that keeps a body alive by keeping all other organs in working order. Sounds like metaphysical gibberish? Well, read a little further before judging me. Look at the scientific aspect. Had it not been for blood, what would carry the nutrition absorbed from food to all other parts of the body? How else do you explain oral medication accurately treating the specific ailing body part or organ when anything consumed from the mouth only travels via the gastrointestinal tract that begins from the mouth, passes the abdominal cavity and ends at the rectum? Blood is the carrier that transports the necessary stuff to where it is needed. Is it not, then, equivalent to life force? So, what happens if this very carrier of life becomes infected? What is blood poisoning? Come, let's find out.

What Does Blood Poisoning Mean?

Blood poisoning is a condition wherein either a pathogenic microbe such as a harmful strain of bacteria or any other toxin enters the bloodstream and leads to an immune response from the body which may be in the form of sepsis or septic shock that might result in multiple organ failure. The blood is a sterile environment which has a slightly alkaline pH value of 7.4 (a pH value of 7 is neutral, more than 7 is alkaline and less than 7 is acidic). This makes the introduction and propagation of pathogenic bacteria in the blood stream an absolutely abnormal condition. The term septicemia is used to denote two different situations that together constitute of blood poisoning - bacteremia and sepsis. Bacteremia refers to the presence of bacteria in the blood stream while sepsis refers to the infection brought on by the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream which manifests as an overall inflammatory response from the body. While one is the cause of a blood infection, the other is a symptom of blood poisoning.

How do You Get Blood Poisoning?

When there is a bacterial infection in any part of the body such as liver, lungs, urinary tract, skin or any other organic tissue within the body, such infectious bacteria may enter the blood stream and reproduce therein to such an extent that the high bacterial concentrate starts affecting the other organs which the blood comes in contact with. This massive pathogenic attack puts the immune system on high alert and this causes the immune defenses to elicit a large-scale danger alarm in the form of inflammation of the entire body accompanied by high white blood cell count and frequent fevers. Blood infection after surgery can be contacted if, during surgery contaminated surgical equipment was used or if the immediate surgical environment was unsterilized. Also, quack treatments that employ invasive methods may also lead to bacterial blood infection due to carelessness in maintaining hygiene of the equipment as well as the surroundings.

Now that you know what is blood poisoning and how it gets to you, let's take a look at the various levels of this condition and how it is treated. The first stage of blood poisoning can be seen as Systemic Inflammation Response Syndrome (SIRS) which manifests as inflammation of the entire body. The second stage is sepsis which is evidenced by the presence of a pathogenic agent in the bloodstream which is the suspected cause of the infection. The third stage is severe sepsis which is characterized by organ dysfunction, followed by septic shock which is the final stage and is characterized by dysfunction and failure of end organs such as heart, brain, liver, lungs and kidneys.

Treatment of blood infection usually involves the administration of antibiotics and the draining of infected fluids from the body using surgical procedures. The latter is usually resorted to in very severe infections or in advanced stages of blood infection. Also, in case of severe infection, draining of infected fluid is followed by fluid replacement and medical support for the dysfunctional organs.

Blood poisoning can be contacted from a wound, if the patient experiences chills, fever, an abnormal rise or fall in body temperature, flushed skin, increased heart rate and mental confusion soon after getting inflicted by the injury. To be sure, check if a red streak emerging from the wound goes in the direction of the heart. This is a sure shot sign of blood poisoning and red streak that emerges from the wound and goes in the direction of the heart confirms the suspicion. That sums up blood poisoning in simple terms and from a layman's point of view.
By Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
Last Updated: 9/23/2011
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