Medical Daily recently published a story about a model whose right leg was amputated after her tampon use resulted in Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Lauren Wasser's story made national headlines when she described how TSS, a bacterial infection, impacted her life in such a negative way. In fact, Wasser is suing Kotex — the brand of tampons she used — because she believes there needs to be more awareness and transparency about the dangers of using tampons.

However, many health professionals disagree with Wasse's suit because occurrences of tampon-related TSS are extremely rare.

"It's less of a concern these days because people are more aware of it," Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a board-certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh, told Medical Daily. "Since it became known in the 80s, manufacturers have stopped making certain types of tampons [believed to increase] the increased of TSS."

With such a low rate of occurrence, why does TSS scare so many women? Adalja says it may have to do with the fact that upon discovery, TSS was linked to tampon use. However, research has emerged in subsequent years that clearly states it can be contracted in other ways.

Toxic Shock Syndrome, Explained

TSS, which is caused by staphylococcus aureus (staph A), can occur in men, too, Adalja said. When a person is infected with staph A, they go into shock and their blood pressure falls dangerously low. At this point a person's heart is unable to pump enough blood to support other organs and can cause shortness of breath, delirium, and even kidney failure.

Staph A does enter the bloodstream through mucous membranes — like the vagina — but it can also penetrate severe burns, cuts, or surgical sites, Joy Herbst, a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health, told Medical Daily. While tampons may not necessarily correlate with getting TSS, super absorbent ones and contraceptive sponges can exacerbate the likelihood of infection.

What To Look Out For

Herbst says a telltale sign of TSS is a sunburn-like rash on palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Other symptoms can include a fever of over 102 degrees, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and muscle aches. If these symptoms occur, it's important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Despite its rarity, when TSS does happen, it happens quickly; approximately 50 percent of all cases end in fatalities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. However, if promptly identified, it is treatable and curable.

How Is It Treated?

Like other bacterial infections, TSS is remedied by antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, Adalja says other medicines may be necessary to regulate other organs, too.

"Supportive measure will include antipyretics for fever, pain medications for joint pain and headaches, and lots of fluids to help offset the dehydrating effects of infection and illness," Herbst added.

When quickly treated and cured, the likelihood of TSS recurring will depend on the individual. If tampon use was the cause of the infection, Herbst says she would recommend a reevaluation of the feminine product the woman uses during menstruation.

Herbst concluded: "[I would also recommend] what she can do to keep her immune system in tip-top condition through adequate hydration, balanced nutritious whole foods, and overall vitality."