Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) facts

  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a severe illness associated with infections.
  • Toxic shock syndrome is caused by exotoxin(s) secreted by Streptococcus or Staphylococcus.
  • Risk factors include use of tampons, deep wound infections, and any immunosuppressive health problems.
  • TSS signs and symptoms include:
  • Diagnosis is usually made by clinical criteria such as the signs and symptoms listed above.
  • Treatment depends on the individual's condition; usually intravenous fluids and IV antibiotics are required -- some patients may require additional support (respiratory support, dialysis, and intensive care).
  • Early diagnosis with effective treatment can yield a good prognosis; development of organ damage usually worsens the patient's prognosis.
  • The incidence of toxic shock syndrome can be reduced by avoiding the use of superabsorbent tampons and other devices placed in the vagina; other methods include excellent wound care and/or early treatment of deep wounds.

What is toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome is a severe illness associated with group A Streptococcus (GAS or Streptococcus pyogenes); this bacterium produces a toxin termed TSS toxin-1 (TSST-1). TSS was first described in 1978 in children, but subsequent reports identified TSS outbreaks in women and were associated with tampon use. Although first thought to be additionally associated with menstruation, over the past years, less than half of TTS cases have been associated with menstruation. Although most cases of TTS occur in women, about 25% of nonmenstrual infections occur in men. TSS is also associated with Staphylococcus infections; some strains of these bacteria produce exotoxins very similar to TSST-1.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/16/2016

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