Mild C. diff disease starts with mild to moderate diarrhea with no blood in the stool. Sometimes there's cramping in the lower abdomen, too. Other than mild abdominal tenderness, there aren't any other symptoms.
Severe C. diff disease is another matter. It starts with profuse watery diarrhea and abdominal pain. Patients often have fever, nausea, and dehydration. There may be a little blood in the stool, but very bloody stool is rare.
These symptoms usually signal colitis, a serious bowel infection. If the diarrhea stops after severe colitis, it does not necessarily mean you're getting better. It could be a sign of bowl paralysis and a life-threatening condition called toxic megacolon. Most patients with toxic megacolon need surgery -- and 32% to 50% of patients who undergo surgery for C. diff disease die.
Patients with symptoms of C. diff infection should seek immediate medical attention. Mild C. diff disease can progress quickly to severe disease.
Relapse is common after C. diff infection. There's an ongoing debate over whether this is a true relapse or reinfection.
Whatever the cause, 12% to 24% of patients develop a second episode of C. diff disease within two months. Patients who have two or more relapses have a 50% to 65% chance of yet another recurrence.
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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