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Dysentery - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Aug 06, 2021

What is Dysentery?

Dysentery is a medical condition which is characterized by an intestinal inflammation inside the colon which can result to chronic diarrhea with blood or mucus in the feces. Dysentery can be fatal and can also cause death due to dehydration if the lost fluids from the body is not replaced quickly. Dysentery is more common in children below the age of 11 years old and people living in the developing nations.

Types of dysentery:

There are two types of dysentery that are approved by the World Health Organization.

  • Bacillary Dysentery: This disorder is caused by a bacterium knows as Shigella. Bacillary dysentery is more common in the USA and Western Europe.
  • Amoebic Dysentery (amoebiasis): This form of dysentery is caused by an amoeba known as Entamoeba histolytica. It mostly affects people living in the tropics.

What is the difference between diarrhea and dysentery?

Diarrhoea is the condition characterized by frequent discharge of loose and water-like stool. The causative organisms in this case may be viruses or other parasites. On the other hand, dysentery is a bacterial infection and it is characterized by an inflammation in the colon part of the intestine, leading to the severe diarrhoea like condition with a discharge of blood and mucus in the stool.

In other words, it can be said that diarrhoea is a well known symptom of dysentery.

What are the early signs of dysentery?

Dysentery is one type of infection occurring in the digestive tract, especially in the intestine, colon. This condition is associated with diarrhea containing blood or mucus and it is highly infectious. Dysentery can be differentiated from normal diarrhea easily because it has a presence of blood in it.

Symptoms are generally occurring within 1-3 days of the occurrence of infection and some people also don’t seek any type of medical attention. The early signs and symptoms of dysentery are:

  • A pain in the abdominal area linked with a stomach ache
  • Cramping in the abdominal region and diarrhea (with blood and/or mucus)
  • Feeling of nausea and vomiting

These all Some other signs include:

  • Rectal pain due to recurrent diarrhea
  • Rapid dehydration
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

Is dysentery still around today?

Though dysentery affected people at a large scale after its emergence in the 19th century, however, it has not been eradicated yet and still is serving as a major barrier in the way of health. Failure of development of any effective vaccine as well as increased resistance of the causing bacteria to the antibiotics are the reasons that it still is a risk for the health today.

What causes dysentery?

Poor or bad hygiene is the leading cause of dysentery. Bacillary dysentery is usually spread by infected food or beverage. Whereas, the amoeba which causes amoebic dysentery comes out in the form of cysts while passing stool.

This may also be contact through:

  • Bad sanitation and hygiene
  • Contaminated water
  • Contaminated food

People who come in contact with these food products get infected with this amoeba immediately and develop amoebic dysentery. These cysts can also be found in the hands of the infected people after going to the toilet. Therefore, it is important to maintain personal hygiene so that the infection doesn’t spread to others.

How long does dysentery last?

Dysentery is an intestinal infection that usually causes diarrhoea along with mucus and blood. The recovery time in this condition is upto 3 days to one week with no need of treatment. We just need to follow some basics to relieve the symptoms such as dehydration, fever, abdominal cramps etc.

How long is dysentery contagious?

As dysentery is contagious, one should follow some measures to avoid the transmission of the infection. Diarrhoea is the most important symptom out of all, considering the last episode in which the infected individual should avoid going outside anywhere like any public places for a time duration of at least 48 hours in order to avoid the spread of the infection to others.

This period is important and should be taken into consideration.

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How is dysentery diagnosed?

The doctor or a general practitioner should be consulted if you develop symptoms of dysentery. He doctor will usually carry a physical examination. A stool sample is taken and sent for lab testing for analyzing if you have dysentery or not. Sometimes, the symptoms might be severe, in such cases an endoscopy or an ultrasound is performed.

Treatment for dysentery:

  • Rehydration therapy: This is usually carried out by using oral rehydration. During dysentery the patient experiences loss of fluids from the body. therefore, he/she is encouraged to drink plenty of water. If the dehydration is chronic, then the medical specialist usually recommends intravenous fluid replacement (drip is given to the patient).
  • Amoebicidal drugs or antibiotics: According to doctors, the use of amoebicidal drugs and antibiotics can kill the bacterium or amoeba which causes dysentery. If a person is diagnosed with bacillary dysentery, he/she does not require amoebicidal or antibiotics.
  • Antirheumatic drugs: Infections that cause dysentery in humans can be cured by Antirheumatic drugs. This form of medication is available easily and is also quite economical.

What is the best medicine for dysentery?

Primarily, the doctor needs to perform a physical examination and some laboratory tests to identify the type of dysentery and then treatment is decided. Bacillary dysentery is the most commonly occurring dysentery, prescribed antibiotics along with oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are given to patients suffering from mild to moderate dysentery.

If a person found with diarrheal condition for more than 3 days then intravenous drip is recommended to restore the lost fluids and prevent dehydration. Some over-the-counter medications like paracetamol, loperamide, bismuth subsalicylate are prescribed to overcome symptoms like fever and chills, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. If there is amoebic dysentery then metronidazole or tinidazole like antibiotic and anti-protozoal drugs are prescribed.

How to prevent dysentery?

Dysentery is the infection of the intestines that causes diarrhea containing mucus or blood. Some ways to prevent dysentery are:

  • Good sanitation
  • Taking some precautions while traveling like:
    • Avoiding drinks with the ice cube
    • Unpasteurized dairy products
    • Street vendor’s food
  • Taking proper rest while treatment
  • Not being in contact with anyone for at least 48 hours of treatment
  • Avoid intaking swimming pool water
  • Avoid sexual contact with someone who is recovering from dysentery
  • Only drinking sealed bottled water
  • Carbonated water with an unbroken seal
  • Filtered and boiled tap water
  • Water treated with iodine

What is the best diet for dysentery?

Foods to eat in dysentery

Diarrhea with blood and mucus may cause severe dehydration and further life-threatening condition and to avoid such conditions and recover fast from it some foods are advised to take. The BRAT diet is highly recommended during dysentery or any type of diarrheal infection.

These are considered as the best food during dysentery because these foods are bland and do not trigger the digestive tract:

  • Bananas
  • Rice (white)
  • Apple (or applesauce)
  • Toast (BRAT diet)

Other foods that can be taken in dysentery are:

  • Coconut water
  • Plain pasta
  • Cream of wheat or rice
  • White potato
  • Decaffeinated tea
  • Softly cooked egg
  • Canned pears
  • Steamed carrots
  • Green beans
  • Beets
  • Peeled zucchini

Drink plenty of fluids or water to restore lost electrolytes in form of ORS and can also consume probiotics.

Foods to avoid in dysentery:

Dysentery is creating a dehydrating condition for people and some foods if taken during such type of infection can make the condition more severe. These are considered as the best food to avoid during dysentery because such foods can trigger the digestive system and increasing recurrence chances of it:

  • Dairy products
  • Spicy food
  • Whole grains
  • Dried fruits
  • Beans
  • Legumes

Vegetables like:

  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Citrus fruits and its juices
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Beverages containing caffeine

Is Lemon Juice Good for dysentery?

Lemon juice due to its valuable medicinal properties, has always been proved to be a boon for any kind of an intestinal abnormality. Though it doesn’t have any direct role in the treatment of dysentery, it helps to relieve symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting to some extent.

It acts as a disinfectant and does the disinfection of the foods to be consumed. Lemon water aids in the dehydration caused due to diarrhoea.

Is water bad for dysentery?

As diarrhoea is the most important symptom of dysentery, the requirement of water is clearly shown. Followed by dehydration, this condition may prove to be fatal due to excessive loss of water and electrolytes from the body. Hence water serves as the most important tool for relieving such life-threatening symptoms of the conditions like dysentery.

What are the home remedies for dysentery?

This intestinal infection is occurring commonly because of poor hygienic conditions and to prevent such disease some steps should be taken at home.

  • Everyone using washrooms or toilets must wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water or other sanitizing liquids.
  • Mothers changing diapers of babies and cooking food after it should follow proper hand wash techniques.
  • If a child or adult is suffering from dysentery, he or she should avoid school and workplace for at least 48 hours after completely being free from symptoms.
  • Dysentery can be treated at home by hydrating the body at enough levels to avoid dehydration
  • Eating a recovery diet that is rich in pectin
  • Potassium
  • Electrolytes
  • An adequate amount of protein
  • Taking probiotics (as it contains good bacterias for the digestive system).

References

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Written ByDr. S.Sagin Raj Diploma in Diabetology,CCRH (certificate in reproductive health),MBBS,F.F.M(family medicine)General Physician
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