The misconception exists that only women are affected by toxic shock syndrome (TSS). This belief is traced back to the first incidents of the disease being reported in the 1970s after a particular brand of super-absorbent tampon hit the market. Several women using these tampons died, resulting in that particular type of tampon being taken off the market. Since then, most associate TSS as something that is transmitted by tampons. This is false. Although 30 to 50% of TSS cases are menstruating women, TSS can affect men and children as well.
The medical community recognizes that TSS is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, but beyond that cause, there is still mystery surrounding the cause of TSS. The mere presence of the bacteria is not enough to cause TSS. For example, the bacteria is often found in healthy women's genital areas. In others, the bacteria is found on the skin, where it is equally harmless. In order for the bacteria to cause harm, an overgrowth of the bacteria has to be present in the bloodstream, which will in turn release a host of toxins that burden the entire body. This will cause vomiting, fever and, in extreme cases, death. Death occurs from TSS when the heart and lungs are burdened by the toxins beyond their ability to function.
Since TSS is caused by a bacteria, it needs an entry point into the body where it can fester and grow. Your skin is typically a protector against this, but cuts and wounds in the skin can allow the bacteria to invade the blood stream. For women, it is believed that super-absorbent tampons dry out the skin and cause cracks that allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. For men, this invasion of the blood stream by the bacteria most frequently comes through surgery. Other factors for men and women include burns, open wounds and the use of a prosthesis. Additionally, any of the numerous other infections caused by Staph and Strep bacteria can develop into TSS over time. Men and women with chicken pox and the flu are also at increased risk for developing TSS. In short, with the exception of tampon usage, the ways and reasons that men develop TSS are the same as they are for women.
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