The term ‘dysentery’ has been derived from two Greek words meaning ‘ill’ and ‘intestine’. The meaning or definition of dysentery has been provided by medical professionals as an inflammatory disorder that affects the intestines, more specifically the colon and causes high fever, severe diarrhea and abdominal pain.
What is Dysentery?
One may also term it as ‘Dysentery infection’ as it is a gastrointestinal disorder that is actually caused by infectious viral or bacterial agents. There are a number of types of dysentery which are categorized on the basis of their causative agent. Some of the most common types are amoebic dysentery caused by an amoeba, bacillary or bacterial dysentery caused by a bacillus or bacteria, and many more. In all the cases of dysentery disease or disorder, the symptoms account for a great loss of body fluid which can be fatal in case of acute dysentery. It mostly affects people of the topical region. Along with humans, animals also suffer from this disease. The most common form to be seen in animals is the swine dysentery. It has been estimated that almost 700,000 people have died of dysentery in the last decade and both amoebic and bacillary dysentery are responsible for causing the highest number of dysentery deaths every year.
The further dysentery information may be embellished systematically in the latter.
The signs and symptoms of dysentery depend on the kind of dysentery one suffers from. Acute and chronic dysentery are actually the umbrella distinction between the kinds of dysentery. Under their heads fall the different types of dysentery caused by different and distinct causal agents.
Some of the most general symptoms of dysentery are drying of the lips, mouth and skin, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, frequent urge to go to the toilet, nausea and vomiting, pain in the rectum, and difficulty in emptying the bowel.
However, one may ascribe certain specific symptoms for specific kinds of dysentery which are caused by pathogens. They may be enumerated as the follows:-
- Bacillary dysentery symptoms include diarrhea with or without the release of blood, tenesmus, and mild to very high fever, rectal pain, and abdominal cramps. These acute bacillary symptoms may last for a week or even for months. However, chronic bacillary dysentery may even cause some sever and fatal diseases such as hemolytic uremic syndrome. It is a kind of syndrome which causes kidney failure. Chronic bacillary dysentery in children especially in malnourished children may unfortunately lead to the influx of bacteria into the bloodstream, a condition known as bacteremia. This kind of dysentery is also known as Shigellosis.
- Amoebic dysentery symptoms are actually slow and develop in a gradual pace. It is also termed as Amoebiasis. It is characterized by diarrhea and bloody stool or blood dysentery. In this kind of dysentery the temperature may only rise if one develops liver abscess in the course of the disease. Chronic cases of amoebic dysentery may be responsible for causing severe inflammation of the colon, a condition known as necrotizing colitis or fulminant. Other associated symptoms of amoebic dysentery are common to all others except for the fact that there is also a risk of colon rupture in this case.
- The symptoms of Protozoan dysentery or that associated with giardiasis may include headache, a nauseatic feeling, mild fever, foul smelling flatus, bloating. The duration of acute dysentery symptoms is usually three to four days and may be accompanied with upper right abdominal pain. Patients who suffer from AIDS have severe symptoms of dysentery and cryptosporidiosis.
- In case of viral dysentery, one may site the symptoms within hours of infection. Mild fever along with dehydration is some of the most common symptoms of this kind of dysentery. Nausea and vomiting and tender feeling of the abdomen are some other symptoms of dysentery caused by viral agents.
- Walking barefoot makes one vulnerable to a kind of dysentery that is usually caused by parasites. Such a kind of dysentery is characterized by a bloody discharge of feces, fatigue, and pain in the abdomen.
Besides these, temporary lactose intolerance, delirium and shock are other symptoms of dysentery. In severe cases of dysentery, temporary lactose intolerance may even last for several years.
The causes of dysentery can be specifically categorized as under on the basis of the pathogens and other agents that trigger the disease.
- Bacillary dysentery causes are basically bacterial infection caused by the bacteria belonging to the genus named Shigella. Due to this, bacillary dysentery is also known as Shigellosis or even shigella dysentery. Within the genus of Shigella, there are four different kinds of bacteria, named S. dysenteriae, S. boydii, S. sonnei, S. flexneri. These bacterial organisms invade the colon tissues and secrete a harmful toxin, named Enterotoxin. This toxin attacks the intestinal lining of the colon, thereby invading the tissues and causing pain and diarrhea.
- The amoeba called the Entamoeba histolytica is responsible for causing amoebic dysentery. The cause of amoebic dysentery, i.e., E. histolytica invades the body in the form of a cyst through contaminated consumables or beverages. This cyst gets fragmented once it enters the digestive tract and assumes an active organic form, called trophozite. Then this amoebic dysentery cause invades the tissues lining the colon or may even penetrate into the bloodstream, thereby causing tremendous harm to the lungs, liver and other important organs of the body, in which case amoebic dysentery is known as metastatic amebiasis. The history of amoebic dysentery in terms of the number of lives it has claimed is truly horrifying.
- Viruses belonging to different genus such as rotavirus, astrovirus, norovirus, calcivirus, and adenovirus are responsible for causing viral dysentery in children and adults. Viral dysentery is also known as viral gastroenteritis and traveler’s diarrhea. Food poisoning is one of the major reasons behind the spread of viral dysentery in which case several people have died of dysentery all over the world, especially in tropical countries.
- Protozoal dysentery infections such as cryptosporidiosis is caused by a protozoon, named Cryptosporidium parvum, balantidiasis is caused by Balantidium coli and giardiasis is caused by Giardia lamblia. It is the most common cause of dysentery in children and also those who have a poor immune system.
- Dysentery may also be caused by parasitic worms such as flatworm and whipworm, which are responsible for causing schistomiasis and trichuriasis. It is one of the most common forms of dysentery that affects people in the tropical regions.
Besides the aforementioned causes, scurvy, bowel ulceration and certain chemical irritants or drugs may also cause dysentery.
Is Dysentery Contagious?
In order to know as to how does dysentery spread, one must know for the fact that dysentery is a contagious disease which does not spread directly but relies on other modes of transmission. Bacterial dysentery caused by shigella group of bacteria is the most contagious of all.
Lack of hygiene and poor sanitation is one of the most significant causes behind the spread of dysentery. The pathogens of the various kinds of dysentery actually thrive in contaminated food and water. Bacillary and amoebic dysentery transmission mostly occurs in tropical countries of the Third world due to the impoverishment of the people, lack of effective sewage facilities, overpopulation, poor sanitation as well as lack of basic health awareness among people.
For instance, using human feces as manures to grow crops in these poor countries frequently gives rise to dysentery.
Lack of personal hygiene also accounts for the occurrence and proliferation of dysentery disease.
Diagnosis of Dysentery
The diagnosis of dysentery is based on the medical history of the patient, his/her age, and the symptoms that one suffers from.
The laboratory tests include the culture test of stool samples for the purpose of detecting and identifying the real agent causing the disease. In some cases, a sample of the mucus from the colon lining or a tissue sample of the colon is obtained for a proper diagnosis of dysentery. Dysentery infections caused by rotavirus or parasites are usually detected by an antigen test of the stool sample.
Blood tests help in measuring the electrolyte levels in the patient’s body. This is especially recommended for those who seem to suffer from dehydration.
Other screening test such as x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound examinations, and even MRI are used to detect the harm caused to the lungs or the liver in case of amoebic dysentery. The liver, lungs, intestinal wall, and the urinary bladder are mostly subject to the screening tests.
The medical treatment for dysentery includes the administration of amoebicidal drugs which are meant to destroy the development of the pathogens and antibiotics to treat and cure the infection caused by the agents. However, the treatment specific to each kind of dysentery disease may be laid as under:-
- Bacillary dysentery treatment relies on the intake of antibiotics such as Ciloxan and Cipro, which contains ciprofloxacin, TMP-SMX or Bactrim and Septra, containing trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and NegGram which has nalidixic acid. Anti-diarrheal medications, namely diphenolate, loperamide are strongly prohibited from being used in case of this dysentery since they exacerbate the situation.
- Amoebic dysentery treatment should start as soon it is detected. Amoebic dysentery pathogens are truly dangerous and so the treatment for amoebic dysentery includes antimicrobial drug, metronidazole called Flagyl, Diloxide which is a form of diloxanide furoate, and iodoquinal such as Yodoxin and Diquinol. In cases of dysentery during pregnancy, it is advisable to administer paromomycin which is available in the form of Humatin instead of metronidazole. Severe amoebic dysentery or amoebiasis is dealt with dehydroemetine or emetine dihydrochloride, the administration of which needs to be stopped as soon as one gets relieved of the amoebic dysentery symptoms, which is actually a positive signal of the cure of the disease.
- One of the most basic kinds of dysentery affecting children is viral dysentery which causes dehydration to either a mild or a severe extent. Probiotics such as Saccharomyces boulardii and Lactobacillus casei are used to treat dysentery in children. Strong anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medications are not recommended to children but may be used in cases where adults suffer from dysentery.
- The treatments for dysentery caused by protozoa are similar to those that are prescribed in case of amoebic dysentery except for cases associated with giardiasis, wherein drugs and medications such as furazolidone available in the form of Furoxone and albendazole by the name of Zentel are prescribed.
- Dysentery caused by parasitic worms is treated with the help of anthelminthic medications like mebendazole, available in the name of Vermox. Cases of schistosomiasis may be treated with medications which are specific to the agents causing the disease or infection such as oxamniquine, metrifonate and praziquantel.
- Advancement of medical science has led to the development of drugs and medicines which cannot be outrivaled by the viruses or bacteria. One of the anti-protozoal drugs developed is known as tinidazole, which is available by the name of Fasigyn and Tindamax. But it is harmful for pregnant women who suffer from dysentery. Another recent addition is nitazoxanide, available as Alinia.
- One of the most common ways of dealing with dysentery is ORS therapy or intravenous replacement of fluid. This is done in order to bring down the electrolyte of the body to normalcy. Specially made ORS such as pedialyte and infalyte have been prepared for dehydration in children.
- One may even require a surgery in cases of fulminant colitis, when amoebic dysentery is associated with liver abscesses, schistosomiasis and appendicitis.
Besides, the treatment that is clinically available, one may also get cured from dysentery through alternative natural treatment options. This consists of traditional Chinese medicines, aayurvedic medicines, and homeopathic medicines.
The Chinese medications to treat dysentery include astringent drugs which tighten mucous membranes in order to prevent the loss of body fluids. Nut galls, myrobalan fruit and opium are the natural products used to treat the same.
Aayurveda relies on the use of herbs and fruits such as bael fruit, bark of the Arjuna tree, pomegranate raisins and seeds, cumin seed, papaya juice, garlic paste, aloe Vera and rosehip, jiggery, dried mango, brown sugar and sheng jiang, and other dietary supplements such as Bhubaneswar Ras, Lashunadi Bati and Isabbael for the cure of dysentery. Plant based extracts such as leaves and bark of certain specific trees are used in many countries by their original inhabitants to get relief from dysentery.
Homeopathy gives the option of undertaking dysentery home remedies with the help of medications such as Arsenicum, Podophyllum, Bryonia, and Veratrum album or getting it treated under the supervision of a homeopath in case of severe and acute amoebic dysentery or any other kind of dysentery.
Dysentery is actually not so dangerous except caused by amoeba or bacteria which have the resistance to even outdo medications or drug treatment. A proper treatment ensures a fast and easy recovery within 10 to 15 days. But the prognosis of the disease may depend on the immune status of the patient, the kind of dysentery that one suffers from and the severity of the disease. However, with proper treatment and the maintenance of both personal and public hygiene shall help in the cure from dysentery and prevent the risk of contracting the same.
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Written by akshay
on April 18th, 2011. The article was last updated on September 1st, 2011