When hearing the term toxic shock syndrome (TSS) people usually think of concerns about tampons and proper personal hygiene during menstruation. However, this is not an illness that only affects menstruating women or even just women. Anyone can contract TSS. TSS just needs a person to come into contact with certain types of bacteria. Fortunately, the risk of getting TSS is very low.
Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, is the bacteria that usually causes TSS, though this condition may also be caused by group A streptococcus, or strep, bacteria. The condition was primarily linked to women’s use of superabsorbent tampons. However, manufacturers have discontinued the use of certain types of tampons, and, since then, the incidence of TSS in menstruating women has declined dramatically.
Besides using tampons, other risk factors include surgery and skin wounds. Signs and symptoms may include:
Low blood pressure
A sudden high fever
Diarrhea or vomiting
A red rash on the soles and palms
This condition may also sometimes cause headaches, confusion, and seizures.
TSS can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. Around 50% of cases occur in women of reproductive age. There are several risk factors, which include burns or cuts on the body, recent surgery, use of diaphragms, contraceptive sponges, or superabsorbent tampons, and viral infections such as chickenpox or influenza.
To be treated for TSS, the patient must be hospitalized. The patient will then be given antibiotics while doctors find the source of the infection. The patient will also be given medicine to stabilize blood pressure. Dialysis may be needed if the patient’s kidneys fail. The patient may need surgery to remove infected tissue or to drain the site of infection.
TSS involves a cluster of symptoms that can affect many of the body’s systems. This is why this condition must be treated as soon as possible. Early treatment can prevent the bacterial infection from releasing toxins into the bloodstream where the toxins will be carried to the organs. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of TSS should seek treatment from a healthcare provider as soon as possible.