What is sepsis? The symptoms to look out for after MP Craig Mackinlay's quadruple amputation

Watch from ITVX: Spotting the symptoms of sepsis can be difficult but there are key signs to be aware of

Sepsis is a life threatening reaction to an infection which sees the body attack its own organs and tissues, and while its impact can be deadly, spotting sepsis isn't so easy.

It's estimated around 245,000 cases occur in the UK each year, according to the UK Sepsis Trust.

Among them is the South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay who had his feet and arms amputated after developing sepsis in September 2023.

After returning to the House of Commons on Wednesday, for the first time since his treatment, he's urging people to be aware of the condition.

Craig Mackinlay MP with his daughter Olivia in hospital following his quadruple amputation after developing sepsis Credit: Craig Mackinlay

What are the symptoms?

Sepsis is indiscriminate and symptoms can vary from person to person.

People in certain groups are more likely to get an infection that could lead to sepsis, including babies, people aged over 75 and anyone who is diabetic, has a weakened immune system, people with Down's syndrome and women after pregnancy.

Signs which might indicate sepsis and require urgent medical treatment, according to the UK Sepsis Trust, include:

  • Slurred speech or confusion

  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain

  • Passing no urine (in a day)

  • Severe breathlessness

  • It feels like you're going to die

  • Skin that is mottled or discoloured

The NHS urges people to call 999 if they are:

  • acting confused, slurred speech or not making sense

  • blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue – on brown or black skin, this may be easier to see on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet

  • a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis

  • difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast

What is the treatment?

People who have sepsis might need to stay in hospital for several weeks.

The quicker people arrive at hospital the better because the condition can cause more damage very rapidly.

It's like doctors will provide antibiotics within an hour to prevent the risk of septic shock causing organs to fail.

In some cases surgery is needed and some people have to spend time in intensive care.

The NHS has a dedicate section on its website for sepsis.

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