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Toxic shock syndrome

Diagnosis of toxic shock syndrome

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, you must seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor will assess your symptoms and discuss your medical history with you. They may also ask you about your use of tampons and any recent wounds you’ve had.

Your doctor will then administer a blood test and a urine test to look for signs of staph or strep infection. Swabs of your throat, vagina, and cervix might also be taken. If you have any flesh wounds, a tissue sample may be taken. Additional tests that might be ordered include:

  • CT scan to view the soft tissue for the presence of infection and damage
  • Chest x-ray to see if there has been any lung damage
  • Spinal tap to test the spinal fluid for infection


Our experienced staff of gynecologists will provide options for effectively treating toxic shock syndrome. Most likely, if you have been diagnosed with TSS, you will be hospitalized immediately. Treatment for toxic shock may include:

  • Antibiotics to kill bacteria, which may be given by mouth or IV
  • Removal of wound or nasal packing, if necessary
  • Medication to control blood pressure
  • Surgery to clean out any wounds or drain the infection

During your hospital stay, our team will carefully monitor and maintain the stability of your blood pressure and organ function while you receive treatment for TSS.

Toxic shock syndrome can recur. For this reason, it is vital to use the preventive measures listed above to avoid recurrence.


If you have the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, you will need to get to a medical facility as soon as possible. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms, medical history, and use of tampons. If you see your doctor first and they suspect TSS, you will be sent to the hospital immediately, where testing will be done.

Since toxic shock syndrome can progress quickly, there probably isn’t a lot you can do ahead of time to prepare. If it is the result of surgery, it can develop as soon as 12 hours after the procedure. Women who have it due to the use of tampons can start experiencing symptoms within three to five days. You will be admitted and start testing and treatment very quickly once you see a medical professional.


If you receive treatment for toxic shock syndrome quickly, you will most likely make a full recovery. The length of time for recovery will depend on the severity of the illness at the time treatment begins. If the condition goes untreated for too long, organ damage can occur.


Once toxic shock infection has begun, it can develop very quickly. Fast action must be taken to ensure treatment and recovery. Potential complications of not treating it in time include:

  • Shock (reduction in blood flow throughout the body)
  • Organ failure (heart, liver, kidneys)
  • Death

It is important to watch out for signs of organ failure.

Signs of heart failure include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inability to concentrate

Signs of liver failure include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate

Signs of kidney failure include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • An increase in blood pressure
  • Hiccups
  • Problems sleeping
  • Persistent itchiness
  • Problems urinating
  • Swollen ankles and feet

At Dignity Health, we provide preventive care and compassionate treatment for toxic shock syndrome.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.