When A Tampon Becomes Deadly
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is an unusual occurrence, but is nonetheless a life-threatening complication that has been linked to the use of super-absorbent tampons and sometimes with contraceptive sponge use, as well. TSS is most often caused by toxins that are byproducts of staphylococcus aureus bacteria (staph germs), but the condition has been known to be caused by group A streptococcus bacteria (strep), as well.
The syndrome most often occurs in women of childbearing age, but can also occur in men, postmenopausal women, and children. That's because TSS isn't only due to tampon use but can also develop as a complication of surgery or skin wounds.
TSS comes on suddenly and it can be fatal. However, it's possible to lower your risk for this condition. The symptoms of TSS include:
*Sudden, high fever
*Low blood pressure
*Diarrhea or vomiting
*A sunburn-like rash that is most noticeable on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash will peel after a week has elapsed
*Reddened eyes, mouth, and throat
Should you experience any of these symptoms you need to contact your physician right away, especially if you're menstruating, have just finished your period, are using tampons, or have an infection of the skin or a wound. Your doctor will want to know when your symptoms began and he'll ask you to describe your symptoms, too.
Researchers are still studying the causes of TSS and the link to tampon use, but two theories have been developed thus far. When super-absorbent tampons are left inside the vagina for too long, they may become a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Others believe that the tampon fibers cause abrasions along the vagina's surface that then allow bacteria or toxins to enter into a woman's bloodstream.
If your doctor diagnoses you with TSS, you'll almost certainly require hospitalization. You will receive antibiotic treatment as well as treatment for the individual symptoms you experience. Your doctors will attempt to find the source of your infection.
If your blood pressure drops, you'll be treated with medication to stabilize your blood pressure and be given fluids to counteract dehydration. Toxins produced by strep or staph bacteria in combination with low blood pressure can sometimes cause kidney failure. Such a complication will require dialysis.
Lower your risk for TSS by changing your tampon every 4-8 hours. Always use the lowest absorbency possible and try to alternate between the use of tampons and sanitary pads. If your flow is light, consider using mini-pads instead of tampons.
Once you've had TSS, your chances for a recurrence are high. If you've already had TSS, you shouldn't use tampons.