Listen Up! If You Use A Tampax, This Is The One Article YOU MUST Read Today

Listen Up! If You Use A Tampax, This Is The One Article YOU MUST Read TodayListen Up! If You Use A Tampax, This Is The One Article YOU MUST Read Today

TSS meaning toxic shock syndrome, is a complication arising from infection caused by two different types of bacteria and it can be fatal

Last year, a former American gymnast, Anna Norquist, reportedly lost her left leg and right arm to toxic shock syndrome (TSS). She initially thought she was coming down with flu. But her symptoms became suspicious and before she knew it, she had contracted streptococcus bacteria, which causes this deadly disease.

Norquist is one of the many women who either had to undergo an amputation or lost their lives to this very misunderstood illness. According to statistics, three in 100,000 women fall prey to TSS. And, even though Asian women have for long avoided the use of super absorbent tampons—which is the primary cause for TSS—the use of menstrual cup has once again started the debate. 

So what is toxic shock syndrome or TSS meaning and why you should be vary of it?

Toxic Shock Syndrome Or TSS Meaning: What You Must Know 

Toxic shock syndrome is a complication arising from infection caused by two different types of bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or Streptococcus pyogenes (strep). The body reacts to the toxins produced by these two, which is so dangerous that you either suffer from multiple organ failure. Or, lose your limbs in the process, or worse, it can kill you. 

While TSS caused by the later has a reported mortality rate between 5 and 15 percent. The rate increases to anything between 30 and 70 percent when it comes to strep.   

This acute-onset illness is primarily caused by the use of super absorbent tampons. Most of which are manufactured using incompatible synthetic material.  

As Dr Philip M. Tierno, professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU School of Medicine, US, reportedly explains, “Most major tampon manufacturers make tampons with either mixes of viscose rayon and cotton, or pure viscose rayon,”

He further explains TSS meaning to Vice News. “Toxic shock syndrome may result if a woman has no antibody to the toxin or low antibody. Therefore, the synthetic ingredients of a tampon are a problem, whereas 100-percent cotton tampons provide the lowest risk — if any risk at all,” he said. 

Similar to flu, the initial symptoms of fever and rash can often throw people off. Which means that even though it is very much related to the use to tampons, it can occur in men and children as well. 

Common Symptoms Of Toxic Shock Syndrome Or TSS

tss meaning

Toxic Shock Syndrome is like a ticking bomb if you are not careful beforehand. | Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome develop when the two types of bacteria release exotoxins into the body: called toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 or TSST-1.

Our immune system then mounts a major battle against these two. It releases a large amount of immunity cells called cytokines. Although this response is supposed to overpower these toxins, it actually overwhelms the body. Thus, pushing it into shock. 

This process leads to display of several symptoms. Although we must point out that sometimes symptoms can be an extension of those formed due to a preexisting condition like pneumonia. But generally when we talk about TSS meaning and its specific symptoms, here are the ones you can expect. 

  • High fever, could go upto 102 degree
  • Rash, may look like a sunburn and appear on hands and feet 
  • Nausea or fainting
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Irritated or inflammed eyes 
  • Racing heart 
  • Headache 
  • Trouble breathing normally 
  • Seizures 
  • Diarrhea or gastrointestinal problems 
  • Muscle pain, chest pain
  • Weakness 
  • Sore throat and flu-like symptoms 

Remember that toxic shock syndrome caused by strep may not always exhibit rash, even though TSS caused by this bacteria is related to skin conditions. But TSS caused by staph is often due to use of tampons. This disease can also occur if you have a recovering wound that got infected. 

Another thing to bear in mind, while looking for symptoms are to watch out for the following: 

  • Menstruating, or using menstrual products including tampons or menstrual cups 
  • Using birth control items that are inserted into the vagina, such as a diaphragm 
  • Recovering from surgery that requires ‘packing’ (insertion of material inside the body). For instance, rhinoplasty where nasal gauze is used. 
  • You have miscarried, given birth, or recently had an abortion
  • Were sick with a viral infection like chicken pox or flu
  • Have a recovering wound or an insect bite 

If you had any of the aforementioned, you must be careful. Because chances are they will speed up toxic shock syndrome symptoms. And, if you’ve had it before, you are at a greater risk of contracting it again. 

In understanding TSS meaning, you also have to look at its causes.

Causes Of Toxic Shock Syndrome Or TSS

As stated before when the body releases immunity cells called cytokines to fight the infection, it goes into shock. And if left untreated, it can lead to multiple organ failure or even death. But why does this happen? 

It happens when women do not change their tampons or even menstrual cups for a long period of time. Ideally you should change pads and menstrual cups or tampons after 8-12 hours of its use. Even before if you have heavy bleeding. failure to do so can result in infection, even if you wear a sanitary napkin. 

But that is not the only cause of TSS. 

While TSS is mostly linked to the use of synthetic tampons, but there is more to it, especially for men and kids. If you didn’t know, the first few cases of toxic shock syndrome were reported in children. And even though its mostly women who suffer from it today, there are still cases of non-menstrual TSS that occur in kids and men. 

Now that you know what causes TSS and its symptoms the other crucial thing to know about TSS meaning is its diagnosis. 

Diagnosis Of Toxic Shock Syndrome 

tss meaning

Note that there is no specific test for TSS. Doctors make assessment on the basis of other clinical symptoms including use of tampons. | Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Even though toxic shock syndrome is rare and its symptoms are similar to that of flu, early diagnosis and treatment can save the patient from imminent organ failure and/or death. 

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC), has certain diagnostic criteria that help specialists diagnose TSS in its early stages. If a person has the following, they are considered fit to be checked and later treated for TSS.

  • Fever, higher than 102 degree 
  • Hypotension 
  • Rashes on palms and feet 
  • Involvement of three organs 

Tests including blood cultures and of body fluids, if come positive, indicate TSS. Note that there is no specific test for TSS. Doctors make assessment on the basis of other clinical symptoms. Here are a few tests you can expect.

  • Blood test to assess immunity 
  • Tests to check functioning of organs including kidney, liver, and the central nervous system
  • Cultures for Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or Streptococcus pyogenes (strep)
  • Image testing (MRI, CT) for infected wounds
  • Specific blood culture tests for gangrene, measles, or Reye syndrome

Once these tests are administered and they come positive, timely treatments including antibiotics are given. 

Treatment Of Toxic Shock Syndrome 

While TSS is rare, if its not diagnosed properly and prolongs from a few hours to a few days, it can be fatal. In addition to antibiotics, many patients need intensive medical treatment and close monitoring. 

Medical experts will first have to understand the cause and work around it. If it is something that can be removed (a tampon for instance), or work on reducing the spread of an infection that is done.

Antibiotics such as Vancomycin, Clindamycin, or Penicillins are usually administered. Or, the FDA-approved oritavancin (Orbactiv) to treat skin infections. This would continue for a good 14 days, as a standard course. We advise that the minute you suspect TSS, start antibiotics and head to the doctor immediately!  

Some people may even need additional treatment for recovery. These include the following:

  • IV fluids 
  • Pain killers
  • Antiemetics, for nausea 
  • Wound treatment and cleaning 
  • Vasopressors, to control blood pressure, especially for those who are susceptible to go into shock post IV fluid administration 

There are also a few other things to note, beside the medication. Those who might be using tampons or menstrual cups during this condition, should avoid wearing them. Since there is no specific vaccine to prevent this condition, its best to be cautious. Here are few things women must do.

  • Avoid using tampons or menstrual cups 
  • Change sanitary napkins and tampons (if you still use them) even eight hours
  • Do not sleep on tampons overnight and its best to switch to sanitary napkins 
  • Keep all the devices inserted into the vagina absolutely clean (diaphragm, birth control rings etc.)
  • Timely treatment and awareness, its not enough to just know TSS meaning 

With proper diagnosis and urgent treatment, you can fight off toxic shock syndrome. When you notice initial symptoms like a rash or fever, report it to your doctor. Especially knowing that you use tampons or menstrual cups. Or have a history of TSS. 

Remember that you can reduce the likelihood of TSS from ever happening again. You just need to be more careful, maintain hygiene and report your early symptoms to the doctor. 

Also read: Period and Menses: How to Change a Woman’s Life With a Menstrual Cup

Source: NCBI, Mayo Clinic

(All images courtesy: Shutterstock)

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj