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Toxic shock syndrome risks

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is rare acute (sudden) health condition triggered by overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Actually toxic shock caused by released toxic poisonous substances produced by bacteria. TSS affects women during menstrual period (usually women who use super-absorbent tampons during menstruation). Toxic shock syndrome risks are dangerous (life threatening) and high.

History of toxic shock syndrome is pretty short. The term “toxic shock syndrome” was first invented by pediatrician Dr James K. Todd in 1978 when he described the staphylococcal illness in three boys and four girls aged 8–17 years. Later the connection between toxic shock syndrome and use of menstrual tampons was identified.

TSS is actually women body response to bacteria toxins which trigger sharp drop of blood pressure that deprives organs of oxygen and can lead to death. Most TSS women suffer hypotensive shock in which the heart and lungs stop working. In 1970-1980 several death cases were registered and all women were using specific brand of super-absorbent tampon that was later removed from the market.

In most cases TSS appears in women who use tampons during menstruation but this syndrome could also appear in women who use menstrual sponges, diaphragms or cervical caps. Main point is vaginal “dirty” smelly environment which increases activity of dangerous bacteria. It usually happen if menstrual tampon or other menstrual products left in vagina for long period of time (more than 6-8 hours).

Health experts noted increased toxic shock risks in women who has recently given birth (during one year after delivery) and in women while recovering from surgery, burn and open wounds.

About 30% TSS patients are under 19 and about 25-30% TSS clients suffer from recurrent toxic shock.

Toxic shock syndrome risks – causes

According to scientists, TSS is caused by specific poison produced by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This bacteria is usually present in the vagina and if it starts intensive growth and multiplication, it can increase toxic shock syndrome risks. Super-activity of this bacteria starts when vaginal environment is changed. Menstrual vaginal tampon saturated with blood is very supportive environment for rapid growth of bacteria, release of poisonous toxins and toxins transformation into bloodstream. It was noted that polyester foam provides better environment for bacteria growth than either cotton or rayon fibers.

Toxic shock syndrome risk factors

Toxic shock syndrome risks

Toxic shock syndrome risks

  • skin burn,
  • skin infection,
  • surgery,
  • recent childbirth, skin wounds,
  • intra-vaginal devices,
  • diabetes,
  • alcoholism,
  • chickenpox.

Toxic shock syndrome risks – symptoms

TSS symptoms can vary from person to person but always common is sudden appearance of symptoms which often appear during menstruation or just after menstrual period:

  • Decreased blood pressure (pale clammy skin – signaling rapid drop of blood pressure),
  • Sudden fever,
  • Muscles aches,
  • Unexpected headaches,
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea,
  • Skin rash (resembling sunburn with peeling skin – especially on palms and soles),
  • Red eyes, mouth and throat,
  • Dizziness or sudden confusion,
  • Seizures.

Toxic shock syndrome prevention

  • Use regular tampons instead of super-absorbent ones,
  • Change tampons at least every 6-8 hours (preferable every 4-5 hours),
  • Never forget to remove your last tampon by end of menstrual period,
  • Try to switch to sanitary pads,
  • If you use menstrual sponge, diaphragm or cervical cap, remove it when it is not needed.

Toxic shock syndrome risks and complications

  • Liver failure (yellowing skin and eyeballs, upper abdominal pain, concentration problems, nausea, vomiting, confusion and sleepiness);
  • Kidney failure (fatigue, weakness, swelling, nausea/vomiting, muscle cramps, hiccups, persistent itching, chest pain, shortness of breath, increased blood pressure, sleeping disorders and urination disturbances);
  • Heart failure (heart palpitations, chest pain, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, absence of appetite and concentration problems);
  • Sudden shock (sudden drop of blood flow).

Toxic shock syndrome treatment

Life-threatening TSS requires immediate emergency care in closest hospital. Emergency medical care can save your life.


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