Clostridium Difficile Colitis (cont.)
Dennis Lee, MD
Dennis Lee, MD
Dr. Lee was born in Shanghai, China, and received his college and medical training in the United States. He is fluent in English and three Chinese dialects. He graduated with chemistry departmental honors from Harvey Mudd College. He was appointed president of AOA society at UCLA School of Medicine. He underwent internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
In this Article
How does C. difficile cause colitis?
C. difficile spores lie dormant inside the colon until a person takes an antibiotic. The antibiotic disrupts the other bacteria that normally are living in the colon and preventing C. difficile from transforming into its active, disease causing bacterial form. As a result, C. difficile transforms into its infectious form and then produces toxins (chemicals) that inflame and damage the colon. The inflammation results in an influx of white blood cells to the colon. The severity of the colitis can vary. In the more severe cases, the toxins kill the tissue of the inner lining of the colon, and the tissue falls off. The tissue that falls off is mixed with white blood cells (pus) and gives the appearance of a white, membranous patch covering the inner lining of the colon. This severe form of C. difficile colitis is called pseudomembranous colitis because the patches appear like membranes, but they are not true membranes.
Not everybody infected with C. difficile develops colitis. Many infants and young children, and even some adults, are carriers (they are infected but have no symptoms) of C. difficile. C. difficile does not cause colitis in these people probably because;
What are the symptoms of C. difficile colitis?
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Patients with mild C. difficile colitis may have:
Patients with severe C. difficile colitis may have:
Severe diarrhea also can lead to dehydration and disturbances in the electrolytes (minerals) in the body. Rarely, severe colitis can lead to life-threatening complications such as megacolon (markedly dilated colon), peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdominal), and perforation of the colon.
Reviewed by Jay W. Marks, MD on 11/29/2013
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