The term "colon infection" can be used in various ways to include a number of different colon disorders and conditions.
When used by doctors, however, it usually refers to a disorder caused by the Clostridium difficile bacteria - more commonly known as C. difficile or simply C diff.
Most C. diff colon infections are experienced by older adults who are in a hospital or living in a nursing home or other long term care facility. The reason they get these infections is the fact that they're taking antibiotics to cope with some other health problem.
The problem occurs because antibiotics not only kill bacteria that cause sickness - they also kill bacteria in our intestines which help us digest our food properly. Without enough of this beneficial bacteria, C. diff takes over and grows rapidly. Once C. diff gets established, it causes an infection by producing a toxic substance that attacks the lining of the cells and intestines. The resulting inflammation causes abdominal pain and discomfort.
If your colon infection is fairly mild, it will probably go away when you stop taking the antibiotic. However, in cases in which the colon infection is more severe, an entirely different type of antibiotic may be needed to kill C. diff.
There are several kinds of antibiotics that seem to produce more colon infections from Clostridium difficile than others. These include fluoroquinolones, cephalosporins, penicillin and clindamycin.
C difficile bacteria is common in nature. It can be found in abundance in dirt and water, and also on plants. This bacteria, which is also found in the feces of humans and animals, tends to spread quickly in places where sanitation is poor. It floats easily in the air and can settle on surfaces where it can be transmitted to hands.
Avoiding C. diff bacteria can be done the same way you protect yourself from germs of all kinds: keep surfaces at home clean and wash your hands a lot. C diff produces spores that spread readily and can live on surfaces for months. Touching a surface where these germs have landed, and then touching your lips or mouth, could give them entrance to your digestive tract. This could start a chain of events that ends with a colon infection.
The fact that you have C. diff germs in your digestive tract doesn't always mean your going to get sick. But individuals who have C.. diff can certainly spread them to other people who will then develop a colon infection in turn.
In the last few decades, an increasing number of colon infections caused by C. difficile have been reported. A new form of Clostridium difficile bacterium has mutated which is even more aggressive. This type resists medications that were effective before, resulting in several serious outbreaks in the last ten years or so.
Symptoms of a colon infection can take a long time to appear after C. diff germs get into your system. It can be months. When colon infection symptoms do appear, they may include those detailed below.
* Mild abdomen pain and tenderness, or stomach cramps.
* Very watery bowel movements and diarrhea that lasts at least two days.
* A type of severe colon inflammation known as colitis.
* The most disconcerting symptom may be raw tissue, blood, and pus that you'll notice in bowel movements..
* Fever and nausea.
* Loss of appetite followed by loss of weight..
* Signs of dehydration
It's time to call a doctor if you have these symptoms for 2-3 days or more.
Once it's been established that your colon infection has been caused by Clostridium difficile, your doctor will probably tell you to discontinue the antibiotic you've been taking. Even though your colon infection symptoms will probably improve, there are other treatment steps that may still be required.
The good news is this. There are other antibiotics you can take that will kill Clostridium difficile without destroying the helpful bacteria in your system. The most frequently prescribed among these are known as metronidazole and vancomycin. Side effects like nausea are possible with both, and they may also leave a bitter taste. It's especially important not to drink alcoholic beverages when taking metronidazole.
There are a number of probiotics which be beneficial in restoring your intestinal tract Saccharomyces boulardii, a variety of yeast, has been effective for some patients when combined with medications.
Surgery is not usually performed, but may be done in severe cases.
Not all the treatments for a colon infection recommended above will work every time. When a colon infection returns, it's usually because the Clostridium difficile bacteria was not completely removed in the initial treatment. It can also come back because the individual has been exposed to a different strain.