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Pseudomembranous Colitis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Jul 18, 2023

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Causes of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

Symptoms of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

Risk Factors Of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

Diagnosis Of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

Treatment of Pseudomembranous Colitis

Prevention Of Pseudomembranous Colitis

Pseudomembranous Colitis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Pseudomembranous colitis causes inflammation of the large intestine (swell, itch). It occurs frequently after taking antibiotics. Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is a bacterium, which causes inflammation and can grow and infect the gut lining as a result of antibiotic use. 

The probability of C. diff overgrowth is increased by a number of drugs, including penicillin, clindamycin, cephalosporins, and fluoroquinolones.


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Causes of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

C. diff can be found in foods like processed meats as well as in the soil, water, air, and feces. When you put your hand near or in your mouth after touching something which is infected with this bacteria then you could become infected. Once within the body, C. diff produces a toxin.

The beneficial bacteria in the colon typically keep the amount of C. diff in the body under control, but antibiotics can kill the beneficial bacteria and cause C. diff to proliferate too quickly. Your colon becomes inflamed and as a result, leads to PMC.

Although almost every antibiotic has the potential to do so, some have a higher risk than others. These incorporate:

  • Cephalosporins 
  • Clindamycin
  • Levaquin and Cipro  examples of fluoroquinolones.
  • Penicillin (amoxicillin and ampicillin)

Symptoms of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

Pseudomembranous colitis symptoms include:

  • Frequent, red, watery diarrhea
  • Stomach ache and discomfort
  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sepsis (the body's potentially harmful reactivity to an infection) can happen in more severe situations.

Most sufferers of pseudomembranous colitis experience symptoms 5 to 10 days after beginning their antibiotic treatment.

Risk Factors Of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

Pseudomembranous colitis risk factors include:

  • Using antibiotics.
  • Being in a hospital or nursing home.
  • Increasing age, especially after 65.
  • Having a compromised immune system.
  • Having a colon condition, such as colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Having intestinal surgery.
  • Receiving chemotherapy for cancer.

Diagnosis Of Pseudomembranous Colitis 

You could require one of the following tests to determine if you have PMC:

  • White blood cell count evaluations via blood test
  • Imaging studies, such as a lower belly CT scan or X-ray 
  • Stool sample examination to detect bacteria in the colon
  • Additionally, you might undergo a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, which are procedures that use a thin, flexible tube to see into your colon. During the examination, your doctor might collect a tissue sample for analysis.

Treatment of Pseudomembranous Colitis

Pseudomembranous colitis is typically successfully treated. However, pseudomembranous colitis can be fatal even with quick diagnosis and treatment. Potential issues include:

  • Dehydration: Severe diarrhea can result in a considerable loss of electrolytes and fluids. This increases the risk of dangerously low blood pressure and makes it difficult for your body to function.
  • Renal failure is caused by the rapid reduction in kidney function that can occur when dehydration occurs too suddenly.
  • The unusual condition known as toxic megacolon causes your colon to drastically grow because you are unable to expel gas and waste. If you don't take care of your colon, it could rupture and let bacteria into your abdominal cavity. Immediate surgery is required for a burst or enlarged colon, which may be fatal.
  • A hole called a bowel perforation can form in your large intestine. This unusual condition usually develops after a toxic megacolon or when the lining of your large intestine has been seriously damaged. Peritonitis, a potentially fatal illness, can be brought on by a perforated bowel, which allows bacteria from the gut to escape into your belly.
  • Death: Even mild to moderate C. difficile infections, if left untreated, can quickly get worse and be fatal.

Additionally, days or even weeks after an apparent effective course of treatment, pseudomembranous colitis can occasionally recur.

Prevention Of Pseudomembranous Colitis

Hospitals and other medical institutions adhere to stringent infection-control regulations to help stop the spread of C. difficile. Examples of preventive actions are:

  • Handwashing. Prior to and following each patient encounter, healthcare professionals should wash their hands properly. Hand sanitizers with alcohol in them do not efficiently kill C. difficile spores, thus in the event of a C. difficile outbreak, soap and warm water are a better option for hand hygiene. It's also recommended for guests in hospitals and nursing homes to wash their hands with soap and warm water both before and after using the loo or leaving the room.
  • Precautions while making contact. Patients with C. difficile should be isolated till at least 48 hours following the last episode of diarrhea, hospital workers and visitors must remain in the room while donning disposable gloves and isolation gowns.
  • Complete cleaning. To eliminate C. difficile spores in any environment, all surfaces need to be thoroughly cleansed using a treatment containing chlorine bleach.
  • Only use antibiotics if absolutely required. When these medications are ineffective for viral infections, antibiotics may be administered.

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