Clostridium Difficile Colitis, Antibiotic-Associated Colitis, C. Difficile, C. Dif, C.D., A.A.C.D. and C.D.C.
What is Clostridium Difficile - in easy terms to understand?
C - difficile is a bacteria in your intestines. It is found normally in healthy and ill people alike. There are millions, perhaps billions of different types of bacteria in your body. Bacteria are an important part of your health. They help break down and digest food. They also ward off many "bad" or foreign bacteria that you may come in contact with. In fact, the "good" or normal bacteria on your hands can kill certain bad bacteria which you may pick up handling food or touching everyday items and fixtures.
Your body has lots of "good" and necessary bacteria. It also has some "bad" or dangerous bacteria. Clostridium difficile is a "bad" bacteria. Fortunately, when you are healthy and not taking antibiotics, the millions of good bacteria in your system keep the c - diff under control and in smaller numbers. However, when you take an antibiotic, the levels of good bacteria are reduced down to a smaller number. If your c-diff is strong and doesn't get killed by the antibiotic along with the good bacteria, then it is possible that the c-diff will overpopulate inside your intestine or colon. When this happens, you may get the illness called clostridium difficile colitis.
When you have an imbalance of bacteria and c-diff takes over, it creates two main types of toxins that affect your body and give you the symptoms of the actual disease. The toxins attack your intestinal wall and left untreated may cause ulcerations. Your symptoms may include diarrhea and cramping at first. The later stages are commonly flu-like symptoms of weakness, dehydration, fever, nausea, vomiting and in advanced stages - blood in your stool / feces. If a patient is left untreated, they can die from it. This is rare. It has been reported that clostridium difficile is mostly only contagious from other people through the fecal-oral route To avoid spreading this - one should clean thoroughly all toilets, utensils and fixtures (wearing rubber gloves) while in the same house or ward to avoid cross-contamination. In addition, people should always wash their hands while preparing food regardless of if they have c-diff or not. While using these simple precautions, normally it is rare to spread c-diff and there is no need for hysteria or paranoia about catching it. I lived with my wife for over a year in the same house and did not catch it. Also, even if you did get a spore - you may not actually become symptomatic.
Antibiotic usage is usually the initial cause of developing this disease. Additionally, antibiotics are usually the cause of recurrent cases of c-diff. Ironically - two very powerful antibiotics are used to primarily treat the disease! Ironic, isn't it?
First of all, you must have some symptoms to suspect that you have it. Normal symptoms are listed in the previous question. You must see your doctor to be diagnosed and treated. Under no circumstances shall you use the information here as a method of diagnosis or treatment. You cannot be certain that this is what you have until a test is done. A diagnosis includes a test done by a lab with a stool sample to be sure that you actually have the illness. A gastroenterologist is the main specialist which normally handles this illness because they deal with illnesses of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach & intestines) and are trained in that area of the body. The gastroenterologist may perform a colonoscopy to assess the damage to your intestines and the presence of the c-diff and polyps. Click here to see a picture of a colonoscopy.
Some regular physicians can treat and cure you. If you have a stubborn case, you may ask your physician to refer you to a specialist. There have been cases where non-specialist physicians did not know enough about c-diff and actually aggravated the condition by mis-diagnosing or prescribing another antibiotic or medicine that encouraged c-diff overpopulation. For example, we had one doctor that prescribed an anti-diarrhea medicine which resulted in the toxins staying in my wife's intestine. The body gives you diarrhea for a reason: to get rid of the bad stuff. It is like putting your body's natural cleansing system in high gear to get rid of toxin. However, prolonged diarrhea may cause dehydration and death. So, go see a doctor!
How is it normally treated?
Keep in mind that this illness is usually treatable with a couple of special antibiotics and for most people it goes away after a couple weeks or as prescribed by your doctor. For the other approximately 20% of the patients who are not cured, the common first-line and least expensive drug used is Flagyl (metronidazole). If Flagyl is ineffective then Vancocin (vancomycin) is commonly prescribed. The Vancocin is very expensive (about $4.80 per pill!!). As of right now, the vancomycin is the last-resort and there are no other main line and clinically proven and accepted (by USDA) defenses against c-diff.
C-difficile produces spores when attacked by antibiotics. The spores can live in the open air or in dirt for up to two years. Normal disinfectants have been shown ineffective against the spores. This means that even if you kill the C-dif bacteria, spores can still be present. When the leftover spores detect an attack from conventional antibiotics, it unmasks the spores and causes them to start producing the C-dif bacteria all over again. This is why you can get rid of the symptoms while on the medicine and it can come right back later.
Those of us who have not been cured by the normal treatment by our doctor call this illness a disease because there is not a solid cure for everyone. Today, there are numerous people contributing to this web site - most of which still have the disease and have had it ranging from 2 months to 1 year or more. So you see - this can be a disease for some people if it won't go away. There is no guarantee if a patient will get rid of it and it may affect them or be susceptible for the rest of their lives. It recurs in many people who get off the medicine.
The alternative (not medically or clinically proven or certified by USFDA) treatments listed were gleaned from other sources on the internet and from people who have c-diff and are trying them. You should consult a doctor prior to any treatment and realize that self-treatment may be dangerous without proper direction. We are not recommending any specific treatment in this website. Get your doctor's guidance before using any listed below as this is for informational purposes only.
Here is the list:
Acidophilus, bifidobacterium, yogurt (live cultures), brewer's yeast, saccharomyces boulardii (Florastor), fructooligosaccharides (FOS), lactobacillus, enemas, specific diet as recommended by a Medical or Naturopathic Doctor & "pulse dosing".
Other reported treatments (may or may not be USFDA certified drugs):
Teicoplanin, questron, bacitracin, rifampin w/ vancomycin, colestid, nisin, certain technology which bind toxins.
Here are the most talked about or newest supplements as surveyed by our visitors currently:
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