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staphylococcus aureus

Toxic Shock Syndrome: What It Is and Why You Should Be Concerned

What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome? The words “toxic shock syndrome” strike fear in many women, likely due to the highly publicized media reports of people dying or experiencing major complications from this condition. While dangerous, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a relatively rare condition that can be avoided with proper hygiene.

TSS is a bacterial infection that occurs when the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus finds its way into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, it releases toxins. This can cause organ failure and death if not treated immediately.

Causes and Risk Factors

TSS is commonly associated with the use of tampons and contraceptive sponges among women. However, anyone can contract TSS: women, girls, men, and boys. Usually, the bacteria finds its way into the bloodstream through an open wound. Experts theorize that leaving a tampon in place for a long time can attract bacteria. Tampon fibers can cause small wounds in the vagina for the bacteria to enter the body, leading to the development of TSS.

The likelihood of developing TSS increases with:

  • Open wounds
  • Recent childbirth
  • Recent surgery
  • Skin burn or infection
  • Use of a diaphragm or vaginal sponge

Symptoms of TSS

The symptoms of TSS vary from patient to patient and often appear suddenly. Some of the more common TSS symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Redness in the mouth, eyes, throat, or vagina
  • A sunburn-like rash anywhere on the body
  • Seizures
  • Sudden fever
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches

Complications and Prevention

If left untreated, TSS can be life-threatening. You can experience liver failure, heart failure, kidney failure, and shock. These conditions often lead to death or, at the very least, life-altering complications. If you are experiencing symptoms of TSS, seek medical help immediately.

There are actions you can take to reduce your risk of TSS, such as:

  • Washing your hands frequently, especially before and after inserting a tampon
  • Dressing open wounds and keeping them clean
  • Switching to low-absorbency tampons or pads
  • Using contraceptives other than diaphragms or sponges
  • Changing your tampon every four to eight hours
  • Using a pad on days with a light menstrual flow

Seek Help Today

If you are experiencing the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, seek medical attention immediately. Call an ambulance or visit an emergency room right away.

After you’ve received initial treatment for TSS, visit a trusted OBGYN like the team at the Women’s Medical Association of Nashville. We offer comprehensive women’s health services for TSS treatment, prenatal care, sexual health screenings, and more.

Contact WMA of Nashville to schedule your appointment today.

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