The shock syndrome or toxic shock (TSS) is caused by toxins released by certain strains of common bacteria. Although anyone can experience SST, it occurs most often in healthy adults. The wound through which bacteria gain entry is often minor or imperceptible. The toxic shock syndrome has been linked to the use of tampons and develops quickly and can be fatal. Still, this disease is quite rare.
What are your causes?
The toxins released by bacteria called Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Clostridium cause TSS. These bacteria are everywhere, even in our mucous membranes, such as the throat, mouth, nose and vagina. Most strains are harmless, but some bacteria release a threatening toxin (poison) in the blood.
Sepsis is a response throughout the body to infection caused by bacteria or other substances. Septic shock is a serious case of sepsis, in which the body goes into shock (low blood pressure that endangers life). The toxic shock caused by tampons is a special form of septic shock caused by the toxins of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria.
Toxic shock syndrome can occur when women use tampons, especially “superabsorbent” ones. The toxic shock came to public attention in 1980, when more than 700 women became infected in North America. Most of these women had recently changed to a new super absorbent tampon. It is not yet clear why this type of tampon increases the risk of TSS, but may be related to a “drying out” of the vagina. Women who leave the tampon for more than 24 hours are also at increased risk of developing TSS.
Symptoms and complications of toxic shock
TSS symptoms appear suddenly and your symptoms may include:
– Confusion and dizziness
– extreme fatigue and weakness
– high fever
– Red eyes
– severe diarrhea
– sore throat
– generalized red rash
In severe cases, symptoms worsen rapidly during 24 to 48 hours. Large amounts of vital fluids and minerals seep into the tissues and penetrate the vital organs. The blood supply and blood pressure decrease. This can cause fainting and possibly a coma. Respiratory problems may occur, and the blood and organs may not receive enough oxygen. After 1 to 2 weeks, the skin may begin to peel, especially on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. In addition, the blood may not coagulate properly, which increases the risk of bleeding.
Many organs are severely threatened by bacterial venom. The infection can damage the muscles, kidneys, liver, heart and lungs, but can be recovered with treatment.
Experts believe that there are many mild cases of toxic shock related to the tampon that never progresses to the more drastic symptoms listed above. They are not reported or confused with diseases such as influenza and gastroenteritis.
How to avoid it and ways of prevention
Fortunately, toxic shock syndrome is less common now than it was in the 1980s, because the most dangerous tampons have been recalled. Women can minimize their chances of getting TSS by taking the following precautions:
- alternating tampons and pads during heavy bleeding.
- change the tampons every 4 to 6 hours.
- Bring a good general hygiene, especially around the vagina.
- Remove the last tampon as soon as the menstrual bleeding ends.
- using external pads at night.
- using the least absorbent buffers possible.