Clostridium Difficile Infection
WHAT IS CLOSTRIDIUM DIFFICILE INFECTION?
Clostridium difficile is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines. Healthy people can have some of these bacteria in their colon without getting sick. However, if you have too many clostridium difficile bacteria, they can damage the colon and cause a serious, even life threatening, infection.
These bacteria are also called C. difficile or C. diff.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
You may get a C. diff infection if you have been taking antibiotics for a while. Different antibiotics kill different kinds of bacteria. Antibiotics can upset the natural balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut. When an antibiotic kills 1 type of bacteria, this may let too many other bacteria grow in your gut. If you have too many C. difficile bacteria you may develop an infection.
· You are also more likely to get a C. diff infection if:
· You have a health problem that weakens your immune system, such as diabetes or cancer.
· You are 65 or older.
· You live in a long-term care facility.
· You have a history of colon problems, such as colorectal cancer or colitis.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The most common symptoms of C. diff infection are
· Watery diarrhea, which may be bloody
· Loss of appetite
· Belly pain and tenderness
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Your primary care provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have tests of bowel movement samples to check for bacteria that may be causing your symptoms. These tests (called stool cultures) can also show which antibiotics are best to treat the infection.
You may have the following tests to see if the infection is damaging your colon:
· Special X-rays, such as a CT scan of your belly
· Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, which uses a thin, flexible lighted tube to look at the lining inside the colon
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Even though antibiotics may have caused the C. diff infection, you will need more antibiotics to get rid of it. Your primary care provider will use culture test results to determine the best antibiotic for your infection.
If the lining of your colon has been badly damaged by the infection, you may need surgery to remove the injured part of the colon.
If you are hospitalized, you may need to stay by yourself in a single room. This is to help make sure the bacteria stay in your room and don’t contaminate or infect other people.
HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?
· Follow your primary care provider’s instructions. Take your medicine exactly as it is prescribed. Do not take half doses and do not stop before you have taken all of the medicine.
· If you have diarrhea, ask your primary care provider for a recommended diet. This often includes:
· Eat starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, bananas, and boiled vegetables.
· Avoid caffeine.
· Drink apple juice or other nonacidic juices. Avoid citrus drinks.
· Ask your primary care provider if you should take acetaminophen for your fever and stomach pain.
· If your diarrhea is bloody, don’t take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These medicines can cause stomach problems, as well as other problems. They can make the bleeding worse. These risks increase with age. If you are taking these medicines, read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your primary care provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason.
· Be sure you drink plenty of liquids, especially if you have diarrhea.
· Clean your hands often. When you are at home, the people who live with you should also clean their hands often.
· Ask your primary care provider:
· How and when you will hear your test results
· How long it will take to recover
· What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
· How to take care of yourself at home
· What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
· Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
HOW CAN I HELP PREVENT C. DIFFICILE INFECTION?
If you have C. difficile, you can avoid passing it to others by cleaning your hands well with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Everyone who comes into your room must also clean their hands before and after seeing you. This includes doctors, nurses, other staff, and visitors.
If you are being treated at the hospital for C. diff infection, you may need to stay in your room. If you are allowed to leave your room, you should not go to common areas, such as the gift shop or cafeteria. You can go to other areas of the hospital for treatments and tests. Usually the staff caring for you will wear protective gowns and gloves, which they will take off before leaving your room. Visitors may also need to wear gloves and a gown over their clothing. The housekeeping staff must also use gowns and gloves when entering your room and should clean all surfaces in the hospital room, including the bedrails and the telephone.
If you do not have C. difficile but want to avoid getting it, you should:
· Wash your hands every time you use the bathroom and every time before you have a snack or eat a meal.
· Take antibiotics only when necessary and as prescribed by your primary care provider.
· If you are being treated at a hospital, make sure that all doctors, nurses, and other primary care providers clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after caring for you. If you do not see your primary care providers clean their hands, ask them to do so.
If you are at high risk for infection, you may be given medicine that may help you have a healthy balance of bacteria in your colon.
Government of Canada – C. Difficile: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/cdifficile-eng.php?_ga=1.207839634.1223394645.1432212509