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Monday, September 21, 2020

Dysentery: Causes, Symptoms, Complications and Treatment

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Dysentery is a disease that is associated with the intestinal tract. It is an infectious disease that is commonly seen when a patient is experiencing diarrhoea.

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Most people who have dysentery usually experience blood in their stool. Other patients have also reported having experienced mucus in their stool.

Often, this disease is a communicable disease that can be spread through the ingestion of contaminated food, or water which has already been contaminated with faecal matter. Dysentery is mostly as a result of poor hygiene.

A person who has dysentery and uses the toilet but doesn’t wash his hands will likely spread the infection to everything he or she touches including food and water.

People who have experienced dysentery have experienced either one of the two types of dysentery.

Types of dysentery

There are two types of dysentery and they include

1. Bacterial dysentery

Bacterial dysentery is also known as bacillary dysentery or Shigellosis is a very dangerous and highly contagious infection of the large intestine (colon). This infection is caused by a certain bacteria known as shigella bacillus. This bacteria invades the large intestine and cause dysentery.

The incubation period of shigella bacillus is one to four days, after which the patient will begin to experience symptoms which may last up to 10 days if the infection is mild. If the infection is severe, then the infection might last up to six weeks before the symptoms subside.

Shigellosis is seen to be prevalent in children more than adults. Children who are between the ages of one to four are much more at risk of developing this disease especially in a region with poor sanitation or when there is a breakout of the disease.

Shigellosis can also be caused by some other infections asides the one from the bacteria shigella bacillus. These other infections include:

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  1. The parasite amoeba
  2. A bacteria are known as E. Coli as well as another named Yersinia

Shigellosis is transmitted from one person to another via the following

  1. Contact with a faecal matter that contains the bacteria Shigella bacillus
  2. Failure to wash your hands especially after immediately using the toilet. If you have the infection and you refuse to wash your hands after using the toilet, it can cause the transmission of the disease from one person to another.
  3. Poor sanitation which leads to the introduction of flies which may have perched on contaminated faeces.

2. Amoebic dysentery

Amoebic dysentery which is also known as amebiasis is caused by a protozoan parasite which affects both the small and large intestines. It is a rare disease that is caused by a protozoan parasite known as Entamoeba histolytica.

This parasite is mostly spread through poop as well and it is a rare disease that occurs in the United States of America and any other developed country. However, the reverse is the case for underdeveloped and developing countries.

In these countries, getting this infection seems to be a common phenomenon and this is because of the poor sanitation they do practice.

Causes of dysentery

amoebic dysentery and bacterial dysentery are both caused by poor hygiene and poor sanitation. Majority of the underdeveloped and developing still struggle with some infections such as this. And the reason isn’t far fetched.

People who present with dysentery have had contact and ingested faecal matter in either their food or their water. They also might have had contact with people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet or have swum in contaminated pools and lakes.

Children are mostly at the risk of developing bacterial dysentery (Shigellosis), however, adults too can get the infection. The way Shigellosis can be spread is a little bit different from the way amoebic dysentery is spread.

Both are gotten from contaminated food and drinks. Although, amoebic dysentery is mostly spread via contamination, however, Shigellosis can be gotten from close contact with infected people.

It is entirely possible to get bacterial dysentery from having close contact with an infected person either within the home, at the daycare centres, in schools or nursing homes.

Symptoms of dysentery

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The symptoms of dysentery can either be mild or severe depending on how far the infection has spread. The severity of the symptoms also depends on how standard the quality of the sanitation in that area is.

In developed countries, people there may develop mild symptoms of dysentery which can be easily treated, however, the reverse is the case for developing countries. Signs and symptoms tend to be more severe in these countries.

Also, the sign and symptom one may experience depends on the kind of dysentery the patient has. For this article, we will describe all kinds of signs and symptoms in order to help you specify which type of dysentery you may be having.

Mild symptoms may include:

  1. A slight stomach ache
  2. Mild cramps
  3. Diarrhoea which is characterized by watery stools and frequent use of the toilet.

These symptoms usually start after about 1-3 days after you have been infected. With treatment, you can recover within a week.

Symptoms of bacillary dysentery

When you have bacillary dysentery, you may begin to experience symptoms between 1-3 days of infection. The patient will experience stomach ache as well as diarrhoea, however, there will be no signs of mucus or blood in the stool sample.

Other symptoms the patient may experience includes;

  1. Presence of blood or mucus in the stool of the patient.
  2. Severe pains in the abdomen
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Mild or high fever.
  5. Tiredness and weakness.

Sometimes, the symptoms may be so mild and can resolve itself and as such, there will be no need for a doctor. However, if you experience vomiting and blood or mucus in the stool, then you should consult your doctor.

Symptoms of amoebic dysentery include;

  1. Severe pains within the abdominal region
  2. Cold and fever
  3. Vomiting and nausea
  4. Dizziness
  5. Diarrhoea which is watery and it may contain either blood or mucus or the both
  6. Painful experiences when passing out faeces
  7. Constipation that happens intermittently
  8. Tiredness and fatigue

Sometimes, it is possible for amoebic dysentery to cause ulcers and this is because once amoeba can live within the intestinal walls unchecked, they will most likely leave the walls and enter the bloodstream and as such can cause a gastric ulcer or duodenal ulcer.

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Although dysentery has been seen to cause very few complications, however, the complications they cause can be severe if not properly treated. These complications include:

1. Dehydration

Dehydration simply refers to the excess loss of body fluids from the body and there are different stages of dehydration.

Frequent diarrhoea and vomiting which is a symptom of dysentery can lead to dehydration which can become life-threatening most especially in infants and young children.

2. Abscess

This condition is mostly caused by amoebic dysentery. Once the infection spreads to the liver, there is a tendency for it to cause abscess of the liver which can become a serious complication over time.

3. Hemolytic Uremic syndrome

Hemolytic Uremic syndrome has to deal with the blockage of the renal arteries by the blood cells.

Bacterial dysentery otherwise known as shigella bacillus infection can cause the red blood cells to block the passageways into the kidneys. Once this occurs, the patient will suffer from low platelet count, kidney failure and anaemia.

4. Seizures

Some patients have been seen to develop seizures mostly when the infection begins to affect the nervous system.

Dysentery though a common disease can be avoided simply by good hygiene and by washing both fruits and vegetables with clean if possible boiled water before eating.


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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker
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