What is Clostridium Difficile (C. difficile, or C. diff)?

Your digestive tract is home to more than 1,000 species of micro organisms. While most of these micro organisms are harmless or even helpful, sometimes something comes along to upset this perfect balance in your digestive tract. When this happens otherwise healthy bacteria may grow out of control and you may become ill. One of the more severe of these bacteria is Clostridium Difficile (C. difficile, or C. diff). When these bacteria grow rampant they can release a toxin which attacks the lining of the intestinal tract and causes Clostridium difficile colitis.

Although C diff is rare when compared to other bacteria, it is also one of the most important reasons for infectious diarrhea in the United States alone.


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There are many C. diff symptoms including watery diarrhea for several times a day lasting for several days. This may be accompanied with tenderness and abdominal pain as well.

A more severe case of C. diff may include watery diarrhea up to 15 times per day, severe pain in the abdomen, loss of appetite, fever, blood and or pus in the stool and weight loss. Occasionally, C. diff can also cause a hole in your intestines which could prove to be fatal if it’s not treated immediately.

Diagnosed by stool specimens, you’ll be tested for toxins. Occasionally, a colonoscopy (a camera is inserted into the colon to see what all is going on in there) will be required for further diagnosis and you may have to have further testing yet.

What are the risk factors for c. diff?

In a normal healthy human there is rarely any concern regarding C. diff. However, if you have a family member in the hospital or a long term care facility you will find that they are at a higher risk for C. diff. Conditions requiring long term treatments with antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria in a person’s intestines. This good bacteria helps to keep the C. diff under control.

When antibiotics are administered, they lower this protection measure and thus C. diff can flourish. The longer the course treatment of antibiotics, the more likely the patient is to suffer with C. diff. C. diff outbreaks are more common when broad spectrum antibiotics are used as they kill a wider variety of the good bacteria. C. diff also tends to flourish when multiple antibiotics are utilized to treat a condition.

Are there other risk factors for C. diff?

Yes, other risk factors include any surgery of the gastrointestinal or GI tract. Diseases that involve the colon can also be risk factors and lead to colorectal cancer. A weakened immune system, chemotherapy medications, previous infections with C. diff, age 65 or older, kidney diseases and any drugs used with proton pump inhibitors can also lead to c. diff infections.

What are C. diff treatments?

If you’re suffering from C. diff, a doctor may prescribe you with an oral antibiotic such as metronidazole, dificid or vancomycin. This treatment will last for 10 days. Generally metronidazole is tried first. If the medication is working you should see and feel results within the first three days of treatment. The diarrhea may bother you for a few more days off and on and in approximately one quarter of the cases a second round of medication may be required.

Other treatments may include administering probiotics. These are available in your local pharmacy or grocery stores. These are good bacteria which will help to colonize your gut and prevent the C. diff from flourishing and causing you more problems. Probiotics work great in combination with medications that the doctor may prescribe.

Additionally, you should be drinking plenty of water or other fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration. If you are dehydrated the doctor may prescribe IV fluids to replace those which you have lost with diarrhea.

If you have any concerns about C. diff check with your doctor immediately to find out if you have the condition. Treatment is available and you don’t have to suffer needlessly.  Click to learn more about C. diff treatment

How can I prevent C. diff?

C. diff is highly infectious and can easily spread to others. The spores are shed in the fecal matter and can survive on dry surface for an indeterminate amount of time. When visiting a hospital or long term care facilities, practice good hygiene. Always wash hands with soap and water. Bathrooms and kitchens should be regularly disinfected with bleach based cleaners. Wash clothing with detergents and bleach.

Only use antibiotics if your doctor recommends them.

Source – WebMD

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