What Is C. Difficile? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Clostridium Difficile, also called C. Difficile or C. Diff, is one of thousands of micro-organisms that live within your intestines. It’s a part of the normal balance of bacteria living within your body — for most people, C. Difficile never causes any health troubles.

When something throws off the balance of your intestines, however, C. Difficile bacteria can grow to excess and cause you to become ill.

If C. Difficile grows out of control, the bacteria can release toxins that attack the lining of your intestines, leading to a variety of symptoms, and in some cases, a life-threating inflammation of the colon.

Symptoms of C. Difficile

Most people who suffer from C. Difficile experience only mild symptoms. C. Difficile is a common cause of diarrhea with more than two million cases diagnosed each year. Other symptoms include:

  • Inflammation of the colon
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloody or watery stool
  • Nausea

Risk Factors for C. Difficile

C. Difficile can affect otherwise healthy people, however, it is most common in individuals who have been in the hospital or in long-term care facilities. As a result, the spread of C. Difficile is a major health concern for health facilities.

Patients who have been on antibiotics for an extended period are especially at risk, as some antibiotics kill other bacteria that usually keep C. diff in check. The elderly tend to be most affected by this condition.

Additional risk factors include individuals who:

  • Have received chemotherapy
  • Have had abdominal surgery
  • Have stomach or intestinal problems

How C. Difficile Can Spread

  • This bacteria is spread through contact with fecal matter and contaminated surfaces or materials.
  • Once C. Difficile contaminates a surface, the bacteria can stay alive for a significant period of time and be transferred to other people.
  • It is important to always thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, clean surfaces before and after use, and refrain from taking an antibiotic unless absolutely necessary.

Related: Mud Runs: How to Protect Your Health and Avoid Viruses

C. Difficile Treatment Options

Doctors typically treat C. Difficile with antibiotics, probiotics, and fecal matter transplants. If you have been diagnosed with C. Diff you will likely be asked to drink plenty of water and other fluids to guard against dehydration. Probiotics are a form of healthy bacteria that will line your gut and fight off any infections that are present.