Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common type of infection that can be treated easily with antibiotics. Sometimes, though, the bacteria that caused the UTI can infect your bloodstream. This condition is called urosepsis, and it can be deadly. Keep reading to learn how to recognize the signs of urosepsis and how you can prevent the condition.
Signs and symptoms of urosepsis
Urosepsis develops as a complication of a UTI.
Urinary tract infections are usually infections in just the bladder, so symptoms include:
- strong, sudden, and frequent urges to urinate
- burning or irritated sensation when urinating
- feeling that your bladder has not emptied completely
- pressure in your lower back or abdomen
- thick or cloudy urine that may or may not contain blood
Sometimes, the infection from the bladder can also affect the upper parts of the urinary system, including the ureters (the tubes that connect the bladder to the kidneys) and the kidneys. If these parts of the urinary system get infected, urosepsis can develop as a complication.
If you experience any of the following symptoms of urosepsis, go to the hospital right away:
- pain on the lower sides of your back, where your kidneys are located
- nausea and vomiting
- extreme tiredness
- decreased urine output
- inability to think clearly
- difficulty breathing
- abnormal heart function
- abdominal pain
- rapid heart rate
- high or low body temperature
- fast breathing
In serious cases, urosepsis can progress into a condition called septic shock. If you go into septic shock, your blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels and your body’s organs begin shutting down. This is a medical emergency. You should call 911 or seek emergency medical attention right away.
What causes urosepsis?
Urosepsis starts with the development of a UTI. UTIs most often occur when bacteria enter your urinary tract through your urethra, the tube through which urine exits the body. Bacteria can get into the urethra commonly through sexual activity. The bacteria can get into your bladder, where they begin to multiply and cause an infection.
Urosepsis can occur if a UTI is left untreated. People who are more susceptible to urosepsis include:
- older adults
- people who have a compromised immune system
- people who have existing wounds or injuries
- people who have invasive devices, such as catheters or breathing tubes
How is urosepsis diagnosed?
Your doctor can confirm the presence of a UTI by testing a urine sample. But if your doctor believes that the infection might have spread and developed into urosepsis, they will order additional tests. These may include:
- blood tests
- a CT scan of your abdomen and pelvis to look at the kidneys
- ultrasound scans of your abdomen to see inside your urinary tract
How is urosepsis treated?
It’s easy to treat a UTI effectively when it’s caught early. For a UTI, your doctor will order you to drink lots of water and take antibiotics. Antibiotics are standard treatment. They’re normally very effective at clearing bacteria from the urinary tract. You must take all antibiotics your doctor prescribes you for the treatment to work.
Treatment for urosepsis is more complex, however. The earlier you are treated for urosepsis, the better. The goal of treatment is to stabilize your body and remove the source of infection.
Medications used to treat urosepsis also include antibiotics. You should take them immediately after you’re diagnosed with sepsis. Antibiotics will help rid your body of the bacteria that led to your urosepsis.
Some people may need surgery to remove the source of infection, such as pus from an abscess.
If your urosepsis isn’t treated promptly, you will require close monitoring and treatment in a hospital intensive care unit. There, you’ll receive:
- intravenous (IV) fluids
- other supportive medical care
If you go into septic shock, you may need lifesaving treatments to help stabilize your heart rate and breathing. Your doctor may also prescribe vasopressors. These medications constrict your blood vessels and help increase your blood pressure. If you’re in septic shock, these drugs can help keep your blood pressure up if it remains low after receiving fluids.
What is the outlook for urosepsis?
Worldwide, urosepsis has a mortality rate as high as 40 percent. However, knowing what symptoms to look out for and seeking early treatment can greatly improve your chance of surviving urosepsis. With prompt medical treatment, you can fully recover and return to life as usual.
How to prevent urosepsis
To prevent urosepsis, seek medical attention immediately if you think you may have a UTI or other problem with your urinary tract. If you are diagnosed with a UTI, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully to prevent urosepsis and ensure a full recovery.