There are thousands of species of harmless and useful bacteria residing in our digestive system, and they normally maintain a balance among themselves. If the balance is thrown off track, these good bacteria can cause a number of illnesses. One such bacterium in our gut is Clostridium difficile (C. diff) that when it increases in number, can result in colitis or infection of the intestine. This bacteria is the cause of the most common type of intestinal diarrhea in the country.
Infection by C. diff may cause mild to severe forms of the disease. Mild cases are characterized by watery diarrhea, and pain and tenderness in the abdomen. Diarrhea may continue for several days and it may occur more than twice a day.
Severe cases of the C. diff infection has the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea that may go up to more than 10 times a day
- Pain in the abdomen
- Lack of appetite
- Presence of blood in the stool
- Loss of weight
In severe cases, small holes may develop in the walls of the intestine. In such conditions, the person must immediately get medical attention.
C diff infection is more common in hospitals and other facilities, particularly in those who have had antibiotics for the treatment of some other condition. Continuous and long term treatment with these medications kills the useful bacteria in our gut and throws away the balance. Several factors increase the chances of C diff infection. This includes:
- A surgery in any part of the gut
- Colorectal cancer
- Diseases affecting colon
- Weak immune system
- Kidney disease
- Certain medications like proton pump inhibitors
Oral antibiotics are the first line of treatment for controlling infection. Along with the antibiotics, one should have plenty of liquid to prevent dehydration. Taking probiotics helps to bring back the flora of the gut and thus prevent recurrence of C diff infection.
C diff infection spreads by touching a contaminated surface that contains the spores of the bacterium. Hygenic habits help in controlling the spread of the infection. Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water goes a long way in preventing the spread. One should also take care to wash the surfaces of kitchen and bathroom. More than anything else, do not use antibiotics without a prescription by a doctor. This is extremely important as excessive use may kill the useful bacteria in the gut causing C diff to take charge.