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June 3, 2019 | OB/GYN
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a condition caused by certain strains of bacteria that release toxins into the bloodstream. The strains that cause toxic shock syndrome are staph (Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria and strep (Streptococcus pyogenes) bacteria. Although TSS is rare, it is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can result in the failure of vital organs, such as the liver, lungs or heart.
Historically, TSS was most commonly associated with the use of super-absorbent tampons or using a tampon for longer than the recommended time without changing it. However, changes in the materials tampons are made of and usage habits have made this less common, and today the number of tampon-induced TSS has declined to 50 percent. Despite the association between tampon use and TSS, it is important to know that anyone is at risk for TSS, not just menstruating women. You are at a higher risk for TSS if you:
The symptoms of TSS involve many parts of the body and the onset is very sudden. Symptoms may include:
TSS can progress rapidly and create complications, including shock, organ failure and even death.
If you think you have TSS, seek immediate medical attention—you may need to be hospitalized. If you are menstruating, your doctor will remove your tampon and any vaginal contraceptive devices; if TSS is the result of an infected wound, your doctor will deeply clean and treat the wounded area. In both cases, you will need antibiotics and fluids, as well as possible medication to raise your blood pressure if it is low.
Fortunately, you can prevent TSS. For example, if you use tampons, change your tampon every 4-8 hours; you can also wear a pad a night to avoid going long periods of time without changing your tampon. Reinfection is common, however, so it is important for menstruating girls and women to avoid using tampons if they have already had TSS. Quickly and deeply cleaning any wounds is also critical in preventing TSS. Talk to your doctor to learn more tips for TSS prevention.
“Although Cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome Have Declined, It Remains a Life-Threatening Illness.” University of Kentucky.
“Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).” John Hopkins Medicine.
“Toxic Shock Syndrome – Symptoms and Causes.” familydoctor.org, by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“Toxic Shock Syndrome.” National Organization for Rare Disorders.
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.