Clostridium Difficile is a dangerous bacteria that can cause serious infections and sometimes death. It is often called "C Difficile" for short. Many people who are prescribed antibiotics for a simple bladder infection end up catching this illness because the antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria in the intestines, and if present, allow the C Difficile spores to grow out of control in the body. Immediate medical attention is necessary to defeat this persistent bacteria.
C Difficile is a bacteria that is naturally found in the air, water, soil and in the stool of humans and animals. It produces tough spores which can live for months in the environment or on surfaces. Some people naturally have C Difficile bacteria in their large intestine but are able to keep an infection from developing due to healthy immune systems. C Difficile infections are located only in the large intestine and should be treated immediately to prevent severe illness or death. Thousands of people in the United States alone suffer from C Difficile infections every year.
People who are infected with C Difficile spread the bacteria after having a bowel movement and not properly washing their hands. They then contaminate surfaces such as doorknobs, telephones and counters with the bacterial spores. When someone else touches a contaminated surface, the spores spread to their hands and is unknowingly ingested after touching their mouth or eating without first washing their hands.
Mild cases of C Difficile produce 3 or more watery stools per day and mild abdominal cramping. More severe cases produce 10 to 15 watery stools per day and severe abdominal pain. People with severe cases may also have a high fever, dehydration from loose bowel movements, and blood in the stool.
Risk Factors and Complications
The most common risk factor for C Difficile is recent or current antibiotic therapy from a bladder infection. Most antibiotics used for bladder infections are very strong broad spectrum antibiotics which kill bacteria throughout the entire body as well. These antibiotics kill the good bacteria in your intestines, thus allowing any present C Difficile bacteria to multiply out of control. Recent hospitalizations where C Difficile is more prevalent also serves as a risk factor in catching the illness. If left untreated, C Difficile can cause severe dehydration leading to kidney failure, permanent Colon damage or loss, and death.
Your Physician will likely suspect C Difficile if you have the common symptoms and have recently been treated with antibiotics for a bladder infection. He will then take a sample of your stool to detect any toxins emitted from the C Difficile bacteria. He may also elect to perform a Colon examination to observe any swollen intestinal tissue, puss, and any blood that may be present.
Treatment and Prevention
Oddly enough, two different antibiotics are used to treat C Difficile infections. Metronidazole is used for mild cases, and Vancomycin is used for severe cases. For severe cases, hospitalization may be required to replenish lost fluids and provide IV antibiotics which are more potent. Probiotic drugs may be given to restore the normal bacteria found in the large intestine, and surgery may rarely be needed to remove portions of the Colon that are severely diseased. Proper hand-washing and avoiding unnecessary treatments with antibiotics are the best way to prevent C Difficile infections.
Iva Gutowski is a practicing nurse with health care experience since 2001. She has worked in the hospital setting on medical/surgical floors and critical care units. She has been a writer since 1999. Her experience includes articles for "The Asheville Citizen-Times," "The McDowell News," and "The Old Fort News." Gutowski holds a License Practical Nursing degree from McDowell Technical Community College