Muhammad Ali battled Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years, but that didn’t stop him from being an inspiration to the world. He grasped the Olympic torch with his trembling hands in Atlanta in 1996 and had the privilege to be among the dignitaries at the 2012 London Games. Still, it wasn’t Parkinson what took him away from us a week ago. It was sepsis, an incredibly common complication led by an infection.
Family spokesman Bob Gunnel said Ali’s official cause of death was “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes.” Sepsis, which has the potential to cause organ failure and tissue damage, is a life-threatening reaction of the body triggered by an infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Starting with sepsis and gradually becoming severe, the fatal stage is a septic shock, as reported by the Mayo Clinic.
Health experts emphasize the importance of treating sepsis during its early stage to avoid further suffering. This syndrome causes more than a quarter-million deaths every year in the United States, with more than 1 million reported cases of people affected, according to the CDC.
Although there is no direct link between Parkinson and sepsis, Parkinson’s patients are at higher risk of developing an infection when hospitalized, as told to CNN by Dr. Michael S. Okun, national director of the National Parkinson Foundation. The virus can make its way into the bloodstream and cause patients to become septic, added Dr. Okun, also the chairperson of neurology at the University of Florida.
What causes Parkinson's disease? Was boxing a factor for Muhammad Ali? https://t.co/p5pEefq4f1 pic.twitter.com/cdZDlxrmz3
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 4, 2016
Parkinson’s patients with an infection added to their suffering have worse tremors. Eventually, it becomes harder to walk, but it is not common to see the dying of sepsis, Okun commented.
He says Parkinson’s patients and their families should avoid hospitalizations and opt for an outpatient setting whenever possible, as long as patients do not develop any breathing problem. Okun noted that Ali’s admission was not the cause of the sepsis, which was led by an infection instead.
CDC recommendations to avoid sepsis
Whereas anyone can get sepsis from an infection regardless of whether it is a minor one, the CDC says the risk is much higher in elderly people, those with weakened immune systems, babies, and young children, and individuals who have a severe burn or wound. Also at an increased risk are patients with AIDS, diabetes, cancer, kidney or liver disease, and other chronic illnesses.
The Mayo Clinic reported that early diagnose and aggressive treatment increases the odds of surviving sepsis. Antibiotics, IV fluids, and administering oxygen are good treatment options.
As for prevention, getting vaccinated against infections could help, and the CDC also recommends practicing good hygiene and cleaning scrapes and wounds regularly.
PDF mourns loss of #MuhammadAli."In all areas of life he truly was 'the Champ' & 'the greatest'”Robin E https://t.co/QFyknaAm1Z #Parkinsons
— PDF (@PDFparkinson) June 4, 2016
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