There's no one test for toxic shock syndrome. You may need to provide blood and urine samples to test for the presence of a staph or strep infection. Your vagina, cervix and throat may be swabbed for samples to be analyzed in a lab.
Because toxic shock syndrome can affect multiple organs, your doctor may order other tests, such as a CT scan, lumbar puncture or chest X-ray, to assess the extent of your illness.
If you develop toxic shock syndrome, you'll likely be hospitalized. In the hospital, you'll:
- Be treated with antibiotics while doctors seek the infection source
- Receive medication to stabilize your blood pressure if it's low and fluids to treat dehydration
- Receive supportive care to treat other signs and symptoms
The toxins produced by the staph or strep bacteria and accompanying hypotension may result in kidney failure. If your kidneys fail, you may need dialysis.
Surgery may be necessary to remove nonliving tissue from the site of infection or to drain the infection.
Preparing for your appointment
Toxic shock syndrome usually is diagnosed in an emergency setting. However, if you're concerned about your risk of toxic shock syndrome, see your doctor to check your risk factors and talk about prevention. Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, find out if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down your symptoms, even those that seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes.
- If you menstruate, write down the date your last period started.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions for your doctor will help you make the most of your time together. For toxic shock syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What tests do I need?
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions, as well.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do you use superabsorbent tampons?
- What type of birth control do you use?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
March 23, 2022
- Kellerman RD, et al. Toxic shock syndrome. In: Conn's Current Therapy 2020. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.
- Toxic shock syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/gram-positive-cocci/toxic-shock-syndrome-tss. Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- Nonfoux L, et al. Impact of currently marketed tampons and menstrual cups on Staphylococcus aureus growth and toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 production in vitro. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2018; doi:10.1128/AEM.00351-18.
- Cohen J, et al. Dermatologic manifestations of systemic infections. In: Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 5, 2020.
- The facts on tampons — and how to use them safely. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/facts-tampons-and-how-use-them-safely. Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.
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