Toxic shock syndrome – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare illness. It is a life-threatening bacterial infection. It can be caused by one of two different types of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. Although toxic shock that is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria which is rarer. It happens mostly in menstruating women who use high absorbency tampons. Many people incorrectly believe that TSS only affects women, when in fact it can affect anyone of men, women and children. TSS was originally linked to the use of tampons, but it is now also known to be associated with the contraceptive sponge and diaphragm birth control methods.


The risk of TSS is greater in younger people. This is because older people are more likely to have the necessary antibodies to protect them from the toxin that causes TSS. Toxin-producing strains of Staphylococcus aureus causing toxic shock syndrome was first formally described in 1978. Prior to this time the syndrome was known as staphylococcal scarlet fever. Both menstrual and non-menstrual forms of toxic shock syndrome are caused by these toxins, which release massive amounts of cytokines that produce fever, rash, low blood pressure, tissue injury and shock. Older women, men and children also can become infected. Toxic shock syndrome has occurred in women who had been wearing a diaphragm or a contraceptive sponge. It’s possible for anyone to develop toxic shock syndrome in the course of a staph infection. The number of TSS deaths has gone down over the last 20 years because people are becoming more aware of the risks: it is very important to detect shock early, and get emergency treatment as quickly as possible.


A red rash all over the body may appear during the first few days of the illness and is often followed days later by peeling skin, usually on the palms and soles.

Common symptoms are-

* High fever, sometimes accompanied by chills
* Profound malaise
* Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
* Diffuse red rash resembling a sunburn
* Rash followed in 1 or 2 weeks by peeling of the skin, particularly the skin of the palms or soles
* Redness of eyes, mouth, throat
* Confusion, seizures, headaches
* Muscle aches
* Low blood pressure
* Usually kidneys and liver faliure


TSS tends to recur within a period of about six months. The bacteria that cause the two diseases can also spread to other parts of the body and can produce complications in the liver, kidneys, lungs, and other organs. Untreated toxic shock syndrome can be fatal. The physician will order anti-staphylococcal antibiotics, as well as intravenous fluids to counteract low blood pressure and fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea. Individuals who get proper treatment usually get well within 2-3 weeks.

If you think you have toxic shock syndrome, call your doctor immediately. If you have symptoms of shock, such as severe weakness, dizziness, or light-headedness, immediately seek emergency medical care.