Toxic Shock Syndrome

What Is It?

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, life-threatening illness triggered by certain bacteria (group A streptococcal and Staphylococcus aureus). In toxic shock syndrome, toxins (poisons) produced by the bacteria cause a severe drop in blood pressure (hypotension) and organ failure. In some patients, these bacteria enter the body through an obvious break in the skin, such as a wound or puncture. Other cases are related to the use of tampons. Sometimes, however, toxic shock develops after a relatively mild injury, such as a bruise or muscle strain, or no cause is identified at all.

Symptoms

The majority (80%) of patients with group A streptococcal toxic shock syndrome have symptoms of a soft-tissue infection (pain, redness, warmth, swelling) in an area just below the skin or in a muscle. Patients with staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome may have a staphylococcal infection anywhere in the body and the site of infection may not be immediately apparent.

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