The average human digestive tract is home to as many as 1,000 species of microorganisms. Most of them are harmless -- or even helpful -- under normal circumstances. But when something upsets the balance of these organisms in your gut, otherwise harmless bacteria can grow out of control and make you sick. One of the worst offenders is a bacterium called Clostridium difficile(C. difficile, or C. diff). As the bacteria overgrow they release toxins that attack the lining of the intestines, causing a condition called Clostridium difficilecolitis.
Though relatively rare compared to other intestinal bacteria, C. diff is one of the most important causes of infectious diarrhea in the U.S.
When you have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), you probably know your body doesn’t feel right. Still, it’s not always easy for doctors to diagnose your condition.
The classic symptoms of EPI -- weight loss, greasy, foul-smelling stools that float or are tough to flush, stomach cramps, and diarrhea -- mimic the telltale signs of many other digestive diseases. You might even have one of those diseases along with EPI, like Crohn’s or Celiac disease.
This makes it hard for doctors to know...
In some cases, C. diff infection can lead to a hole in the intestines, which can be fatal if not treated immediately.
C. diff can be diagnosed by stool specimens tested for the toxins. In some cases, a colonoscopy may be needed for diagnosis and more tests ordered.
Risk Factors for C. diff
Although C. diff occasionally causes problems in healthy people, it is most likely to affect patients in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Most have conditions that require long-term treatment with antibiotics, which kill off other intestinal bacteria that keep C. diff in check. While use of any antibiotic can potentially lead to C. diff overgrowth, it most commonly occurs with the use of an antibiotic that is broad-spectrum, or able to kill a wide variety of bacteria. It also happens more often when multiple antibiotics are needed to fight infection and when the antibiotics need to be taken for a long period of time.