Toxic Shock Syndrome: Tampon Users, Take Note!

What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome(TSS) is uncommon, yet life-threatening condition. It happens when the bacteria, namely Staphylococcus Aureus, or Staph, gets into your body and multiplies, releasing many harmful toxins.

It mainly affects menstruating women, especially those utilizing super-absorbent tampons. The body reacts with a significant drop in blood pressure makes organs deficit of oxygen and may cause death.

Other than Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, the following types of bacteria can also cause TSS:

  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Clostridium sordellii (C. sordellii)

Why Toxic Shock Syndrome Gained Significance?

Toxic shock syndrome was in the news headlines in the late 1970s and early 1980s because many young women were dying of the condition. Surveys were done, and it was found that those women were using a specific brand of super-absorbent tampon. Soon the tampon brand was eradicated from the market.

Who Can Get Affected?

The condition is still linked with the menstruating women who utilize tampons, but it has also been associated with the use of diaphragms, menstrual sponges, and cervical caps. Pregnant women who have recently given birth to a child, also have a high possibility of getting affected with the syndrome. Both men and women can have this disease, especially those who have been exposed to the toxic shock syndrome bacteria while healing from an open wound, burn, surgery or the utilization of a prosthetic device.

Can TSS Reoccur?

About one-third of cases of toxic shock syndrome include women below 19 years of age. Studies suggest that nearly 30% of women will get it again in the future. So, in case you’ve ever had the syndrome, you might be knowing the symptoms. Recognize them and get it treated as soon as possible. 

People dying from the syndrome are usually slaughtered by the body’s reaction to the toxic substances discharged by the staph bacteria. A vast majority of people experience emotional shock, in which their heart and lungs stop working.

What Are The Symptoms Of Toxic Shock Syndrome?

As TSS can lead to death, you need to recognize the signs and symptoms and get adequate treatment without delay. 

As the bacteria releases toxicants into your bloodstream, many different systems of your body can get affected. The symptoms you’ll experience are usually like the ones that you get from any other infection. Some of the most prevalent symptoms of toxic shock syndrome are listed below:

  • High fever
  • Flu-like symptoms including cold, headache, body ache, cough, sore throat, and feeling tired of exhausted
  • Diarrhoea
  • A general feeling of malaise
  • Body rash
  • Redness of tongue, lips and whites of the eyes
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Mental confusion
  • Difficulty breathing

The symptoms start appearing within two days of getting exposed to the bacteria. You may have a wound on that region of the body from where the bacteria have moved into your body. But the wound doesn’t generally seem like an infection, and so you need to be cautious. Also, the way the syndrome impacts your body largely depends upon the type of the bacteria provoking it.

Understanding The Causes Of Toxic Shock Syndrome

As discussed above in the article, TSS is caused by a type of staph bacteria. It gives rise to certain kinds of skin infections in menstruating women and those patients who have recently undergone surgery.

The bacteria customarily and obnoxiously exists in the vagina of women. How do that obnoxious bacteria cause TSS? Researchers are not able to find out this but suggest that two conditions are required to be followed for TSS. 

What are they? 

  • First, the bacteria require an environment where they can multiply rapidly and liberate toxic substances. 
  • Second, the toxicants must gain access to the bloodstream.

A blood-saturated tampon is believed to be a supportive environment for the rapid multiplication of bacteria. The material used in the making of a tampon also seems to play a crucial role. For example, the polyester foam offers a way better environment for the bacteria as compared to the ones made out of rayon fibres or cotton.

In case of cervical caps and diaphragms, the device must have been into the vaginal for a very long duration (about 30 hours). And in the case of menstrual sponges, its materials must have stayed in the vagina for quite a long time. 

How harmful toxicants get access into the bloodstream has a lot to do with tampon utilization. Slithering a tampon to place into the vagina can make minute ruptures to the walls of the vagina, causing damage to the small blood vessels. 

Using a super-absorbent tampon for a prolonged period or using it when there is light menstrual flow – dries up the vagina, thereby increasing the chance of ruptures. 

Also Read: How To Take Care Of Vaginal Dryness After Menopause?

How is Toxic Shock Syndrome Diagnosed?

Ruling out the possibilities of similar ailments (like rocky mountain spotted fever) is crucial in the diagnosis. Other diagnostic tests your doctor could perform are as follows:

  • Blood tests: done to spot and recognize the presence of microorganisms.
  • Urine tests
  • Blood cultures: Done to assess blood clots and bleeding times, electrolytes, cell counts, liver function etc.
  • Lumbar puncture: In this test, the doctor will insert a thin needle into the vertebrae of the spine to extract small fluid and check for bacteria. 

Treatment For Toxic Shock Syndrome

TSS happens due to the immune system response to toxins liberated by the bacteria. Undoubtedly, the condition is quite severe, but with adequate treatment, one can quickly recover. 

As TSS is deadly, your doctor would recommend you to get admitted to a reliable hospital as soon as possible. He will start treating you and keep a constant watch on your health condition to know if the symptoms are improving. Your stay in the hospital depends upon the severity of your condition. 

Share the following details with your doctor and help him choose the most appropriate treatment alternative:

  • The symptoms you are experiencing
  • The severity of your symptoms
  • Your age and medical records
  • Your recent health information, including the probable cause for your symptoms

The doctor may need to collect your blood or tissue samples to decide if a specific treatment will work for you.

Possible treatment options are as follows:

  • IV antibiotics

It is one of the most widely used treatments for toxic shock syndrome. This technique involves the direct administration of antibiotics in the body through veins. Antibiotics will help cease the bacteria from multiplying in your body but are unable to remove the toxicants that have already accumulated in your body. 

The type of antibiotic you’ll receive relies upon the type of bacteria responsible for your condition of TSS.

  • Immunoglobulin therapy

If your condition is a bit serious, the doctor will try to treat it with immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are nothing but antibodies – the glycoproteins manufactured by plasma cells(or white blood cells). The doctor will give it to you, intravenously. 

Immunoglobulin therapy can help your body’s defensive mechanism (or immune system) against any kind of infection.

  • Treatment To Improve Symptoms

The doctor sometimes provides treatment to improve specific symptoms of TSS. It may include the following:

  • Medication to keep your blood pressure level under control
  • Dialysis in case of kidney failure
  • IV fluid for shock, dehydration, and prevention of organ damage 
  • Blood transfusion
  • Supplemental oxygen devices to support your breathing

Following your cause of TSS, the doctor may also need to do the following:

  • Remove any contraceptive devices or tampons that you may be using
  • Drain out pus from the affected region
  • Clean the wounded area (if any)

If you have a severe infection, the doctor may need to operate the region to get rid of dead tissue and deep clean your wound. 

How Can You Prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome?

TSS is rare. If you never had it, you’re unlikely to get it quickly. In case you had TSS once, there is a significant risk of getting it again in the future. Consider the following tips and minimize your risk:

  • Treat wounds and burns promptly and seek medical assistance if you recognize any signs of infection, such as pain, redness and swelling in the region.
  • Don’t use tampons, or if you use it, make sure to choose the one with the lowest absorbency that’s appropriate for your period.
  • Clean your hands entirely with soap and water before and after inserting a tampon.
  • Change your tampons frequently (at least every 4-8 hours).
  • Don’t place more than one tampon at a time in your vagina.
  • Before going to bed, insert a fresh tampon and remove it quickly as you wake up.
  • Remove a tampon at the end of your menstrual cycle.
  • While using a contraceptive device, read the manufacturer’s guideline to know how long you can keep it inserted.


Tags: Toxic Shock Syndrome Care Plan, Toxic Shock Syndrome After Childbirth, Toxic Shock Syndrome Covid-19, Toxic Shock Syndrome Menstrual Cup

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