Are there any long-term problems I might have after sepsis?
Many people recover well from sepsis and return to their normal, or near-normal, state of health within 12 to 18 months of their illness. However, sepsis can affect many organs in the body and sometimes they don’t work properly afterwards. The most common organs that can be affected are your:
Kidneys – some people might always need support by a machine, or dialysis.
Heart – which can cause chest pain, problems with your pulse or difficulty when exercising, causing you to get out of breath easily. These symptoms can usually be improved with medication.
Brain – if it didn’t get enough oxygen while you had sepsis. This can make you confused or not able to think as clearly as you did before. You may find it difficult to concentrate or remember things.
Lungs – leading to breathlessness or aching pains in your chest. You may not be able to walk as far as you did before your illness.
Many people feel very upset after being in intensive care and you may feel anxious or depressed. This should settle down in time but it may help to talk to friends, relatives, your doctor, or even a professional counselor about how you feel and what happened to you.
Sometimes patients and their relatives can have extreme symptoms of stress – this is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can happen months after your hospital stay. If you are struggling to cope, ask your doctor for help.
Loss of limbs
You may have been so ill with sepsis that you may have needed to have an amputation – this means that a part of your body had to be removed to stop the infection or because the sepsis caused it to lose its blood supply. This may be parts of your arm or fingers, or parts of your leg or toes.
Having an amputation means that, in addition to the other emotional and physical effects of the illness, life after sepsis may be very different. You now have to learn how to cope with a disability as well. You may have to learn new ways of doing everyday things, such as washing and dressing, change how you get around, and modify the exercise, sports, and hobbies you enjoy.
Most people who have had amputations are able to return to a full and productive life. It may be difficult to see this at first and you will need a lot of support.