6 Symptoms Of Dysentery

Dysentery is an intestinal disease generally caused by bacterial or amoebic pathogens. The infection is spread when a person comes into oral contact with infected feces, usually through ingesting contaminated food or water. As a result, dysentery is most prevalent in hot, developing countries that grapple with poor hygiene and sanitation challenges.

Bacterial infection is the most common, with the Shigella bacterium responsible for most Latin American cases and the Campylobacter bacterium more common in the Southeast Asia region. Bacteria invade the intestines and cause diarrhea and other related gastrointestinal distress after a short incubation period of a few days. The infection generally resolves itself over the course of a week, but more severe cases can last three to six weeks.

Amoebic dysentery is caused by the microscopic protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica. It is uncommon outside of tropical zones, but it can reside for prolonged periods of time in the colon and bowel. Only about ten percent of people harboring the parasite get sick, and infection generally lasts about two weeks in most cases.

The symptoms listed below are commonly associated with dysentery infection and will generally resolve over the course of a couple weeks. However, any extreme or prolonged cases of any of the following symptoms, especially in young children, should consult a doctor for antiparasitic, antibiotic, or rehydration treatment as necessary.

1. Abdominal Pain

As dysentery is primarily an inflammatory infection of the intestine, mild to severe abdominal pain is commonly associated with both the bacterial and amoebic types of the disease. Abdominal pain develops as bacteria or parasites directly infiltrate and damage the intestinal lining. This is further exacerbated when the body’s own immune system cells fight the infection and kill both invading and healthy cells and tissues in the process. As a result of the inflammatory response, cramping and swelling from damaged tissues and capillaries can make pain in the abdominal region quite a bit worse.

The mechanisms through which this type of pain is caused vary slightly based on the pathogen responsible for the infection. Shigella bacteria penetrate the intestinal lining to cause swelling and, in some cases, ulcerations that directly lead to abdominal pain. In amoebic dysentery, Entamoeba histolytica group together to make cysts that are excreted through the digestive tract. In rarer and more severe cases, these parasites can also cause intestinal ulcerations and perforate the bowel to lead to intense abdominal pain as they spread to other parts of the body. When complications like ulcerations and bowel perforation occur, greater amounts of blood, mucus, and pus can all be present in the stool.