Clostridium difficile colitis or pseudomembranous colitis commonly referred to as C. Diff, is a digestive disorder resulting from a type of bacterial infection. The digestive system on an average contains more than 1,000 species of microorganisms. Most of these are harmless, but when there is an imbalance in the system, these bacteria can get out of control and make a person very sick. C. Diff infection results from a spore forming bacteria where patients often show flu like symptoms. The toxins released by the bacteria bloats the stomach resulting in diarrhea and abdominal pain, which can become severe.
It has been observed that C. Diff infection commonly afflicts older people and people who have been in long-term care facility. However, some other studies have also shown that younger people who were not considered to be high risk can also suffer from this digestive disorder infection, which is the C. Diff infection. The symptoms for C. Diff infection can range from mild to severe forms of diarrhea depending on the patient’s condition. Fortunately, C. Diff infection can be treated with the right antibiotics prescribed by the doctor.
What are C. Diff Infections?
C. Diff infections are specific infections, which affect a person’s digestive system. The Clostridium difficile bacterium overgrows and releases toxins in the digestive system, which attack the intestine linings. This bacterium is present in feces and a person who is exposed to it through touching their body parts to contaminated surface can suffer from this C. Diff infection. It is advised to keep all areas clean and disinfected to avoid the risk of C. Diff infection. Some of the risk factors for C. Diff infection include. gastrointestinal tract surgery, inflammatory bowel syndrome, colon cancer, weak immune system and previous C. Diff infection.
Not everyone who has diarrhea suffers from C. Diff infections. Doctors perform specific tests and diagnosis to determine if the patient is suffering from the C. Diff infection or not. Stool test is done to determine the type of infection. In rare cases, doctors do colon examination to diagnose the infection. In this examination a flexible tube affixed with a small camera is inserted through one end of the colon. This helps in looking for inflammation in the colon. To determine possible complication due to the C. Diff infection, doctors can do abdominal x-ray or CT scan. This gives a clearer picture of the colon including showing any inflammation, thickening of colon wall and any hole in the lining.
Types of C. Diff Infections
C. Diff infection can be of two types: mild to moderate C. Diff infection and severe C. Diff infection. The most common symptom of C. Diff infection is watery diarrhea three or more times for two or more days. In such a situation, patient must immediately consult a doctor. In severe cases of C. Diff infection, a patient can become extremely dehydrated and may require hospitalization. Some patients also experience severe abdominal cramps and blood in stool as well. Sometimes C. Diff infection can lead to life threatening complications including severe swelling of bowels due to gas formation. Those who have had antibiotics are more susceptible to C. Diff infection than others.
Symptoms of C. Diff Infections
Symptoms associated with C.Diff infections can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Several C. Diff infection patients are asymptomatic, but the most common symptom seen in C. Diff infection is diarrhea. Some of the other common symptoms of C. Diff infections include.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Tender abdomen.
- Watery diarrhea, thrice or more in a day.
- Severe abdominal pain or cramps.
- Blood or pus in stool.
In severe cases of C. Diff infection, patient can show additional symptoms like severe dehydration, swollen abdomen, kidney failure and increase in white blood cell count. In cases of extreme dehydration in C. Diff infection, it can lead to kidney failure. Patients must immediately consult the doctor when they see these serious symptoms of C. Diff infection. If not treated on time, the patient’s condition can get very serious. Though rare, some patients suffering from C. Diff infection can have a hole in the large intestine in case of widespread damage to the intestine lining. This can quickly become life threatening, if not treated properly and on time.
Treatment of C. Diff Infection
C. Diff infection responds well to treatments depending on the severity of the condition. If the patient is suffering from a mild form of C. Diff infection, it can be treated by stopping antibiotics that caused the infection. Severe C. Diff infections can be treated by the doctor by prescribing other antibiotics that specifically deal with this type of infection. Usually, the condition of the patient improves in two or three days after taking the medicine. The symptoms of C. Diff infection diminish completely in a week to 10 days. Relapse in C. Diff infection is not uncommon and further treatment is required for this. Taking probiotics can help in preventing relapse in C. Diff infection.
In case of severe C. Diff infection where antibiotics do not work, doctors can recommend fecal bacteriopathy or stool transplant. This involves instillation of new bacterial flora taken from a healthy donor’s feces to reverse the patient’s bacterial imbalance. Surgery for treating C. Diff infection can also be recommended for those suffering from severe infection. Colectomy can improve the outcome of C. Diff infection treatment. Doctors recommend patients for surgery based on specific criteria like severe pain, organ failure or inflammation of the abdominal lining.
Prevention of C. Diff Infection
C. Diff infection can easily spread to other people. The bacteria spores that cause C. Diff infection are spread through feces and can survive in dry areas for a long time. The best way to help avoid spreading of C. Diff infection is through prevention. Some of the common prevention methods of C. Diff infection that can be done at home, hospital and other places include.
Hand Washing. Hygiene is very important to treat and prevent C. Diff infection. Whether healthcare professionals at hospitals or clinics or individuals at home, it is important to wash hands regularly with soap and warm water than alcohol based hand sanitizers.
Contact Precaution. Patients admitted in hospital with C.Diff infection should be kept in a private room or share room with other patient that is suffering from the same infection. Visitors and hospital staff should wear disposable gowns and gloves while entering the room of the patient suffering from C. Diff infection.
Disinfection. Toilet Area, Kitchen and any other setting must be kept thoroughly clean to prevent C. Diff infection. The place should be disinfected with products containing bleach and chlorine.
Avoid Antibiotics. In case of some other health issue, it is better to avoid using antibiotics unnecessarily. A wait and see approach works pretty well, depending on the severity of the condition. If antibiotics are absolutely required; ask the doctor to prescribe one that can be taken for a short time. This will help in preventing C. Diff infections.
Diarrhea is a common side-effect of taking antibiotics. So, some patients tend to overlook this. However, C.Diff infection can become serious very soon if not treated on time. The important thing to note here is that the symptoms of C. Diff infection often resemble flu, so patients must not waste time in consulting the doctor, especially those who have risk factors for C. Diff infection. Taking antibiotics continuously is a risk factor for C. Diff infection; however, the infection can also occur in people who do not take antibiotics.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle by including nutritious food to the daily diet is sure to help people in having a good health. Home remedies like drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration is a simple way of preventing the C. Diff infection from becoming severe. Those who do not like drinking water can include different forms of liquid like soup, broth and fresh juices in their diet to prevent dehydration. A person suffering from diarrhea can include starchy food to their diet also.