Toxic Shock Syndrome(TSS): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Toxic shock syndrome otherwise known as TSS is a sporadic disease condition which can likewise be considered life-threatening if not taken care of properly. This rare condition is caused as a result of the release of the excessive buildup of a particular type of bacterial infections.

Often these syndrome occurs as a result of the buildup and spread of toxins produced from a common bacterial infection known as Staphylococcus aureus also known as Staphylococcus in some regions.

Asides the toxins produced from this strain of the bacteria, another strain of bacteria known as the type A streptococcus bacteria also produce large forms of toxins which when accumulated can cause the Toxic Shock Syndrome.

One major cause of the introduction of these strains of bacterial infections into the body is through the excessive use of super absorbent tampons by women when seeing their monthly menstrual cycle.

Although a well-pronounced cause of the Toxic Shock Syndrome is the use of tampons, however, that isn’t the only cause and as such not only women are prone to this disease.Men, as well as children.

Also have the tendency of contracting this disease, and this is because bacteria infection can get into the body and not only through the vaginal opening of a woman.


The most common cause of this disease is the strain of bacteria known as the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Another common cause is the streptococcus bacteria.

Once this buildup of bacteria is released into the bloodstream of the patient, the patient will experience a rapid drop in blood flow and blood pressure hence leading to hypotension. Once this occurs, most organs in the body will begin to lack oxygen.

Never forget that the blood especially the haemoglobin present within the red blood cells carry oxygen and once there is a decreased flow of this oxygenated blood.

The organs which need oxygen to survive, begin to die off and if care isn’t adequately taken, this can lead to what is known as multiple organ failure and eventually death.


There are some signs and symptoms that have been attached to this syndrome and although most can start up with a fever and general body pain, however, it mostly quickly results in other symptoms which includes

  1. Hypertension as a result of the sudden drop in blood pressure
  2. Diarrhoea
  3. A characteristic sign you must take note of is a rash which almost looks like a sunburn that appears particularly around your palms and the soles of your feet which eventually might result in skin peeling.
  4. Confusion and dizziness
  5. Severe muscle and joint pains.
  6. Redness around the sclera of your eyes, also redness of the mouth and the throat can also be noticed.
  7. Seizures may eventually begin to occur most especially after the sudden drop of blood pressure.
  8. Intense headaches

Risk factors

Often, this disease is closely associated with women who use tampons. About half the reported cases of toxic shock syndrome have been as a result of the introduction of Staphylococcus aureus when tampons are being inserted during a woman’s menstrual cycle; however, this disease can affect anyone.

In other words, not only women who use tampons are susceptible. Men, as well as children, can also develop this syndrome.This syndrome occurs to people of all ages and races, and it has not been narrowed down to one particular risk factor.

However, the following may be considered as risk factors for this disease.

1. Having uncleaned and infected cuts or burns on your skin can cause an accumulation of bacteria, and once they get into your bloodstream, it can cause the occurrence of this syndrome.

2. Surgery

Any surgery that isn’t properly done or any surgical wound that isn’t properly dressed and taken care of can be a site for bacteria to feast on. And once this accumulation occurs, it goes directly into the bloodstream; hence this syndrome occurs.

3. Using contraceptive sponges and tampons

This is mostly associated with women. Women who use contraceptive sponges and don’t properly clean themselves up before and after us have the tendency to contract this disease.

Likewise, the use of tampons has been seen to relatively cause the growth of this infection. If you must use a tampon, ensure that you use it properly and clean up very thoroughly, before and after use to avoid the spread and accumulation of bacteria.

4. Viral infection

When you have any viral infection such as chicken pox and others, they create sores, and if the lesions are not properly cleaned, they can become a breeding site for bacteria. Once this occurs, bacteria can easily flow into your bloodstream, and hence the syndrome occurs.


Due to the sudden occurrence of the syndrome, some complications can arise from this syndrome, and they include

1. Shock

When there is a sudden fall in blood pressure(which is also known as sudden hypotension), it can cause the patient to go into a state of shock and in extreme cases coma.

2. Organ failure

Due to the sudden drop on blood pressure, there will be little or no amount of oxygen carried by the remaining red blood cells, and as a result, there will be no circulation of oxygenated blood.

This will, in turn, lead to a majority of the organs in the body experiencing a reduced flow of oxygen which will eventually lead to multiple organ failure.

3. Death

Once the majority of the patient’s organs stop functioning, the patient will eventually die.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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