Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Toxic Shock Syndrome Summary
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a condition caused by toxins formed by Staphylococcus aureus or group A Streptococcus bacteria. Signs and symptoms include fever, low blood pressure, rash, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Left untreated, the patient will experience confusion, dizziness, headaches, seizures, and multiorgan failure. Treatment involves intravenous fluids and antibiotics, oxygen administration, surgery to drain the source of infection, and removal of tampons, nasal packings, or other sources of infection.
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Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) facts

  • Toxic shock syndrome is a serious, life-threatening illness caused by toxins released by two specific types of bacteria, group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Although most commonly associated with tampon use in menstruating females, it can also occur in the setting of postsurgical wound infections as well as skin and other infections.
  • There is no one specific test that establishes the diagnosis of TSS.
  • TSS requires emergency care, including intravenous fluid and antibiotics.

What is toxic shock syndrome (TSS)?

Toxic shock syndrome is a dangerous condition of life-threatening progressive lowering of blood pressure, dizziness, confusion, peeling of the skin of the palms and soles of the feet (which develops after one to two weeks of rash), headaches, and occasionally seizures and death caused by bacterial toxins.

What causes toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a life-threatening condition caused by toxins produced by certain types of bacteria. This condition has been most often associated with the use of tampons in menstruating women. In 1980, an outbreak of TSS was linked to the use of one brand of superabsorbent tampons. Although this outbreak was linked to toxins produced by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, TSS can also be caused by toxins from the group A Streptococcus bacteria. The condition is sometimes subdivided and referred to as staphylococcal TSS and streptococcal TSS.

Although this disease has been frequently linked to the use of tampons in women, it can affect people of any gender and any age. About half of the reported cases have been linked to the use of tampons in menstruating women, while the remaining cases are due to other situations. Tampons, especially when left in place for a long period of time, are thought to provide a breeding ground for the bacteria that subsequently release toxins to cause TSS. When not linked to tampon use, TSS can occur as a complication of surgery or skin infections.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/24/2012

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