'Little-known' sepsis symptom as spotting warning sign on the toilet could be crucial

Constipation and diarrhea in bathroom.
Sepsis kills 50,000 Brits every year -Credit:Getty

A warning sign of sepsis can be spotted when going to the toilet as a Conservative MP has revealed his struggle with the deadly disease.

Sepsis is a rare but serious condition that happens when the body's immune system overreacts to an infection and attacks its own tissues and organs. The condition, which kills 50,000 Brits every year, strikes when the immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage the body’s own tissues and organs, according to the NHS.

Sepsis can be life-threatening in healthy people but is especially dangerous for those who are undergoing treatment that targets the immune system - such as chemotherapy.

The most common signs of sepsis include dizziness and extreme confusion but there are also lesser-known signs of the condition as well. When the disease is caused by infection in the colon or gut, it can cause moderate-to-severe diarrhoea.

Another tell-tale symptom that strikes in the morning is struggling to stand up or feeling light-headed, which can crop up when you’re getting dressed. Septic shock is the most severe stage of sepsis - and the last - and occurs when inflammation throughout the body causes dangerously low blood pressure and organ failure, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay shared he had to have both his hands and feet amputated after he was diagnoses with sepsis, reports the Mirror. The politician is currently preparing to return to parliament after saying he feels "lucky to be alive" following the ordeal.

Craig told of the horror he felt after waking from an induced coma to find his limbs had turned completely black as doctors were forced to amputate to save his life. Now, the 57-year-old is aiming to be known as the first "bionic MP" after being given prosthetic legs and hands.

The MP began to feel unwell in September last year and went to his bed early. His pharmacist wife Kati was concerned the morning after when she noticed his arms felt cold and she couldn't notice a pulse. He was rushed to hospital where within half an hour he turned "a very strange blue".

Close-up of a male patient's hand in a hospital bed with oximeter.
MP Craig Mackinlay was struck down by sepsis -Credit:Getty

Speaking to BBC News, Craig said: "My whole body, top to bottom, ears, everything, blue". Hospital staff soon realised he was in septic shock and was placed in an induced coma for 16 days and Kati was told to prepare for the worst due to his one in 20 survival rate.

When the politician awoke, he saw his arms and legs had "turned black" and felt like hard plastic - and doctors later decided to amputate them. Following the operation in December, Craig said he felt weirdly alert and was unsure if the amputations had taken place.

"But I woke up and I looked down and you obviously realise that they had," he told BBC News. After having prosthetics fitted, Mr Mackinlay has had to relearn how to walk and said the loss of his hands has been the hardest thing to deal with.

"You don't realise how much you do with your hands... use your phone, hold the hand of your child, touch your wife, do the garden," he said, adding his prosthetic hands are "amazing... but it's never going to be quite the same".

The early signs of septic shock include weakness, chills and a rapid heart and breathing rate. According to NHS Inform, these symptoms can then lead to:

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension) that makes you feel dizzy when you stand up

  • Not being able to stand up

  • A change in your mental state, like confusion or disorientation

  • Diarrhoea

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Cold, clammy and pale skin

  • Strong sleepiness or hard time staying awake

The Mayo Clinic has warned a progression to septic shock can raise your risk of premature death. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, you should call 999 immediately.

Chances of survival are highly dependent on getting medical attention as soon as you can so it is important to "trust your instincts". This is especially crucial for babies or young children. Below are the symptoms you should look for:

  • Blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue – on brown or black skin, this may be easier to see on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet

  • A rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis

  • Difficulty breathing (you may notice grunting noises or their stomach sucking under their ribcage), breathlessness or breathing very fast

  • A weak, high-pitched cry that's not like their normal cry

  • Not responding like they normally do, or not interested in feeding or normal activities

  • Being sleepier than normal or difficult to wake

It's is important to note someone might not have all these symptoms, but it's vital to be vigilant as sepsis needs treatment in hospital straight away.

Don't miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond - Sign up to our newsletter here.