How Does Toxic Shock Syndrome Affect the Reproductive System?

  1. Process

    • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) that affects the reproductive system is known as menstrual toxic shock. When a woman is menstruating, the body experiences an overgrowth of the bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. If she wears a tampon or intravaginal contraceptive device like the sponge, this bacteria can slowly build up in the body and be fostered by the tampon or device. For this reason, tampons with a higher absorbency have been linked with an increased risk for toxic shock. Additionally, these larger tampons may stick to the vaginal walls and pull some of the vaginal lining away when the tampon is removed.
      This bacteria gives off toxins that enter the blood, which causes a drop in blood pressure. The internal organs are then deprived of oxygen, which can result in tissue death and symptoms of shock.

    Menstrual Toxic Shock Symptoms

    • TSS symptoms typically take up to two days to develop, according to These symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, muscle aches, fatigue, dizziness, mental confusion, rash or drop in blood pressure. In more serious circumstances, TSS can cause peeling of the skin on the palms or soles of the feet and organ failure, particularly affecting the kidneys.

    Diagnosis and Treatment

    • While there is no specific test to determine TSS, a doctor may utilize blood tests to evaluate how well the kidneys are working. It is important to seek treatment as quickly as possible so a doctor can begin treating a menstrual TSS infection with antibiotics and intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration.
      Following treatment, it is important to identify habits that may have led to TSS in the first place, such as wearing super-absorbent tampons or using a vaginal sponge. Tampon users should be especially sure to replace a tampon every eight hours or less and use the lowest absorbency tampon possible to prevent further TSS outbreaks.

    Long-Term Effects

    • When it comes to the reproductive system in general, TSS does not affect fertility or cause direct harm to the reproductive organs, although these organs can shut down should the body go into shock as a result of TSS. However, using tampons that contain dioxin--a bleaching agent--has been linked to a heightened risk for conditions that do affect fertility, such as endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, according to the National Research Center for Women and Families.

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