(BlackDoctor.org) — Your stomach is cramping, you’re in pain, and you’re afraid to venture too far from your bathroom. What’s going on?
You may have a clostridium difficile infection, often referred to as C. diff.
What Is C. Diff?
C. diff is a bacterium that causes a wide range of symptoms, the most common being diarrhea. While C. diff most frequently impacts older individuals in hospitals or long term care facilities, it can also affect the general public.
How Common Is C. Diff?
Infections with C. diff have become more common, more frequent, and more difficult to treat over the last few decades. Thousands of Americans are infected with this particular bacterium each year, and those who have recently taken antibiotics are often at great risk of infection.
How Is C. Diff Spread?
C. diff is generally passed through the fecal-oral route, wherein people handle food, food preparation surfaces and utensils without properly washing their hands. Some people naturally carry the bacterium in their large intestine, and C. diff is known to live for weeks (or even months) on contaminated surfaces.
C. diff can be spread via door handles, faucets, telephones, remote controls, stethoscopes, toilets, sinks, bedside tables, and any “high touch” surfaces where contaminated hands can leave a trace of bacteria.
What Are The Symptoms?
Watery diarrhea more than three times per day for at least two days is the main symptom of a C. diff infection. Abdominal cramping and tenderness is also common. In severe cases, a grossly enlarged colon (large intestine) can result in bleeding, severe abdominal pain, bloody stool, dehydration, loss of appetite, weight loss, and severe and protracted diarrhea, as well as bowel perforation.
Am I At Risk?
Again, while most cases of C. diff occur in hospitals and nursing homes, infections also occur outside of health care facilities and institutions. Other risk factors include:
• Taking antibiotics, especially “broad spectrum” antibiotics that are used to kill a wide range of various bacteria
• Being 65 or over
• Having been recently hospitalized
• Living in nursing home
• Having inflammatory bowel disease or intestinal or rectal cancer
• Having a history of previous C. diff infection
• Having a weakened immune system
• Undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment that weakens the immune response