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Toxic Shock Syndrome

Symptoms Of Toxic Shock Syndrome

A "syndrome" is a group of different symptoms and conditions that are traced to one specific cause. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), for example, is a cluster of different diseases that stem from infection of helper T cells with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Similarly, TSS is a spectrum of symptoms caused by infection with toxin-producing strains of S. aureus and S. pyrogenes.

The early stage of TSS is characterized by flu-like symptoms such as sudden fever, fatigue, diarrhea, and dizziness. In a matter of a few hours or days, the blood pressure drops dangerously and a sunburn-like rash forms on the body. The drastic drop in blood pressure is potentially fatal. Circulatory problems develop as a result of low blood pressure, and some extremities—such as the fingers and toes—are deprived of blood as the body tries to shunt blood to vital organs. If the syndrome is severe enough, fingers and toes may become gangrenous due to lack of circulation. TSS can be treated with antibiotics, but these drugs kill only the bacteria that release the toxins: they do not neutralize the toxin that is already in the bloodstream. For treatment to be effective, antibiotics must be given early in the illness, before a large amount of toxin has built up in the bloodstream.

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