Stay Informed About Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is rare, but deadly, so it is important to be informed about this condition.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a condition primarily unique to women due to the connection with the menstrual cycle, although it is not limited to the female gender.  Early identification and overall prevention can be life-saving.

The basic definition of how TSS occurs is due to the sudden release of poisonous substances from an overgrowth of bacteria, a type of which is often already found in a woman’s body. The issue becomes critical when the overgrowth occurs in a “trapped situation,” in which the bacteria builds up with a barrier to finding a natural release/balance.  

Basic symptoms of Toxic Shock include a sudden high fever, low blood pressure, vomiting or diarrhea, a rash resembling a sunburn (especially on the palms and soles of the feet), confusion, muscle aches, redness of eyes/mouth and throat and headaches.

Originally gaining attention from the prolonged use of tampons, especially high-absorbency tampons, Toxic Shock Syndrome saw a spike in fatal and near-fatal cases in the 1970’s when tampon use became more popular.  Today, menstrual sponges, diaphragms and cervical caps also can raise the potential for developing TSS. 

A lesser known fact is that women who have recently given birth and both men and women who have been exposed to the bacteria Staphylococcus (Staph) are at a higher risk.  Staph makes people especially vulnerable when recovering from surgery, an open wound, or a burn.

Dr. Nichole Shiffler at SCNM gave us some in depth insight about Toxic Shock Syndrome. “Toxic Shock can occur in otherwise healthy women and is mostly caused by Staphylococcus aureus producing toxin 1 in women using intravaginal absorbents, such as tampons or menstrual cups. The majority of clinically reported cases of TSS arenot due to methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA); however, cases have emerged as rates of infection from MRSA have increased. TSS cases are not always due to menstruation but may also occur from other clinical situations, such as: surgical and postpartum wound infections, mastitis, sinus infections, respiratory infections, etc. Symptoms of TSS may include, but are not limited to, high fever, low blood pressure, rash, and nausea and vomiting. TSS cases have declined since the 70’s as highly absorbent tampons and polyacrylate rayon-containing products have been removed from the market. Tampon use remains a risk factor for TSS.”

She goes on to say that, “Women who develop TSS are more likely to have used tampons with high absorbency, use tampons continuously for more days of their cycle, and keep a single tampon in place for a longer period of time. The Menstrual Cup, made from surgical grade silicon, is an alternative to tampons but have been found to carry the same risks for TSS, if not emptied often or not cleaned properly.”

We all contain bacteria in our body—both healthy and un-healthy.  To be aware that an imbalance in any type of bacteria can have serious results.  Knowing about the potential effects from the build-up of dangerous type of bacteria is an important part of preventative medicine.