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Toxic Shock Syndrome – Not Always Caused by Tampons

Written by Courteney

Posted on March 3, 2017 at 12:37 am

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Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious, and in rare cases fatal, bacterial infection. It occurs when the staphylococcus aureus or streptococcus pyogenes bacteria enter the body and infect the blood. The condition is very rare, some years afflicting only tens of Americans, but it can largely be prevented. For that reason, it is important to be aware of the condition and to be able to sort through myths.

Is TSS Only Caused By Tampons?

No. Even though TSS is primarily associated with tampons in the media, the condition can actually affect females or males of any age for a variety of reasons (many of which are not tampon-related). Just under half of all TSS cases are a result of a woman having left a tampon in for too long. TSS is definitely a concern for women who use tampons regularly, as it is more likely to happen to them. However, as long as women employ proper tampon health practices, they should have no problems using them. Women who use contraceptive sponges, menstrual cups or diaphragms should also practice safe application and removal techniques as those devices can potentially lead to TSS as well.

What Other Things Can Cause TSS?

TSS can also be caused by post-surgical wounds or other types or minor or major wounds or abrasions to the skin in which TSS-related bacteria can enter and infect the body. Those with compromised immune systems are also at higher risk of all kinds of infections.

What Are the Symptoms of TSS?

Symptoms may differ from person to person, but common signs and symptoms include:

  • Hypotension
  • Deep muscle aches or headache
  • Disorientation
  • Severe fever or chills
  • Generalized sunburn-like rash
  • Very red eyes or mouth
  • Stomach upset (potentially including vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Seizures

What Are the Potential Complications?

TSS can lead to vital organ failure (specifically liver) or shock, and ultimately death if it is left untreated. In some cases, survivors of TSS experience chronic lung, heart, liver or kidney problems as a result of damage caused by the infection. Therefor, if you are experiencing symptoms of a blood or body infection, get it checked out immediately to ensure you do not have TSS or a similarly dangerous infection.

How is TSS Diagnosed and Treated?

A doctor will likely perform one or several tests if he or she suspects TSS is making you sick. They may order a urine and feces test to look for the presence of staphylococcus A. A doctor may also take a vaginal swab in women or a throat swab to check for the presence of the bacteria. If the doctor determines it is TSS, he will likely have you hospitalized temporarily and administer an IV of antibiotics. Other treatments may focus on controlling symptoms such as stabilizing blood pressure.

How Can TSS Be Prevented?

Be sure to clean any wounds thoroughly and have wounds checked by a doctor if signs of external infection begin to develop. Women who wear tampons should be careful wash their hands before and after applying a tampon and never leave one in for longer than 7-8 hours. TSS has also been most associated with super-absorbent tampons than other kinds, so it would be best to try to avoid the super-absorbent kind if you are concerned with TSS. Tampons are perfectly safe when used correctly.

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