What are the symptoms of sepsis/septic shock?

Updated: Oct 07, 2020
  • Author: Andre Kalil, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Sepsis or septic shock is systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) secondary to a documented infection (see Shock Classification, Terminology, and Staging). Detrimental host responses to infection occupy a continuum that ranges from sepsis to septic shock and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). The specific clinical features depend on where the patient falls on that continuum. Symptoms of sepsis are often nonspecific and include the following:

  • Fever (usually >101°F [38°C]), chills, and rigors

  • Confusion

  • Anxiety

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue and malaise

  • Nausea and vomiting

These symptoms are not pathognomonic for sepsis syndromes and may be present in a wide variety of other conditions. Alternatively, typical symptoms of systemic inflammation may be absent in sepsis, especially in elderly individuals. In sepsis, symptoms may include decreased urine output and cyanosis (blueish discoloration of the lips and/or digits).

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