HomeGeneral MedicineDysentery (Loose Motions): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Dysentery (Loose Motions): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Generally considered a disease of the monsoon season, Dysentery or Loose Motions spreads fast via contaminated water and food. So, be extra cautious about where you eat and drink! Find out more about dysentery.

What is dysentery?

Dysentery, essentially refers to gastrointestinal disorders characterized by inflammation of the intestines. According to the World Health Organization, dysentery is characterized by diarrhoea, where blood is present in loose, watery stools.

Causes of dysentery

Dysentery is most commonly caused by viral, bacterial or protozoan infections. It is linked to poor sanitary conditions and is spread mostly through contaminated food and water. When an individual is infected with dysentery, the organism lives in the patient’s intestines and is passed in the stool of the infected individual. If the same comes in contact with water or food, it gets contaminated.

Symptoms of dysentery

Symptoms of dysentery can last for five days or even longer. For some, the symptoms might be mild, while others suffer from severe diarrhoea and or vomiting that could potentially cause dehydration.

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea, with or without vomiting

But, if the infection is severe, patient may experience other symptoms due to dehydration, such as:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Dry skin and mucous membranes
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle cramps
  • Loss of strength
  • Weight loss

Risks of Dysentery

You are more at risk of getting dysentery if:

  • You drink water from contaminated sources
  • You eat out at unhygienic places like street vendors etc
  • You eat undercooked food, especially seafood or meat , salads etc
  • You have an existing condition that weakens the immune system such as diabetes, organ transplant, AIDS, etc.
  • You have had or are undergoing Chemotherapy
  • You consumed improperly stored food
  • You live in areas with poor sanitation
  • You are travelling to developing countries

Treatment of dysentery

Clinical diagnosis is necessary to control dysentery. Once the diagnosis of dysentery is confirmed, treatment will be given depending on the severity of the symptoms. If symptoms are not severe and the doctor determines it is bacillary dysentery (Shigella), there is little or no medication required and the illness goes away within a week. In most cases, antibiotics are used to treat dysentery.

If your doctor diagnoses amoebic dysentery, you will be probably start with a 10-day course of an antimicrobial medication. Make sure you take the full-course to avoid relapse.

In addition, make sure your body is hydrated by drinking enough fluids. And get adequate rest.

Tips to prevent dysentery

  • Avoid swallowing water from any recreational water sources or swimming pools
  • Make sure you drink only purified water.
  • Drink packaged drinking water when travelling.
  • Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap after using the bathroom, changing diapers, before preparing and eating food.
  • Check the hygiene of your kitchen and in places where you may eat out .
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Verified By Dr Manoj Kishor Chhotray
MD (Medicine), Senior Consultant - General Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Bhubaneshwar

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