You’ve probably heard of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) before, but what exactly is it, what causes it, and how do you know if you have it? Here, we take an in-depth look at everything you need to know about TSS.
- TSS is a rare but very serious illness caused by a bacterial infection.
- Signs of TSS can include a high fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, a rash on your hands and feet, and headaches.
- Most people associate TSS with tampons, but anyone can get TSS — including people who don’t have periods.
- Your risk of developing TSS is very low (even if you use tampons).
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS): What is it?
Toxic shock syndrome, or TSS, is a rare but potentially life-threatening illness caused by certain bacterial infections. It happens when bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and Streptococcus pyogenes (strep) overgrow and release toxins into the bloodstream.
Most people with periods have probably worried about TSS at some point. Luckily, TSS is rare, and there are things you can do to lower your chances of getting it. Read on to learn more about what causes toxic shock syndrome, toxic shock symptoms, and how to protect yourself.
What causes TSS?
TSS is usually caused by staph bacteria, but it can also be caused by strep bacteria. Staph bacteria typically live on your body; for example, around 30% of people have staph in their noses. The bacteria can then enter your bloodstream through small skin tears or wounds. In comparison, strep can go on to cause TSS in people who have recently had another infection from the bacteria, such as strep throat, and it usually impacts the skin, throat, and anogenital tract.
However, just being exposed to these bacteria doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop TSS unless they multiply very quickly and produce a toxin called toxic shock syndrome toxin (TSST).
If this toxin enters your bloodstream, it can cause serious damage to your organs. Although TSS is often thought of as being linked to tampon use, it can also be caused by surgery, skin wounds, menstrual cups, diaphragms, and contraceptive sponges.
It’s important to know that TSS can affect anyone, so it’s crucial to be aware of the symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary.