What Is Dysentery? – Definition, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

If you have severe abdominal pain involving bloody diarrhea, you might be suffering from dysentery. Dysentery simply means an inflammation or infection of the intestines. Since it’s a particular type of stomach flu, you need the right medications to treat it. This is why it’s so important to first learn dysentery definition in-depth so as to diagnose it correctly and administer the right treatment for it.

This post will discuss everything you need to know about dysentery, its symptoms, causes, and effective solutions.

What is Dysentery? In-depth Definition

Simply put, dysentery is an infection of the intestines that causes diarrhea with blood or sometimes mucus. For the uninitiated, diarrhea refers to a condition wherein the patient experiences loose, watery, and more frequent bowel movements.

There are two major types of dysentery, namely Bacillary dysentery and Amebic dysentery. Bacillary dysentery is more common among the two that mostly results from the Shigella bacteria, thus is also known as Shigellosis. In fact, there are about 500,000 cases of Shigellosis diagnosed every year in the US.

The latter type is caused by a parasite called Entamoeba histolytica. This type of dysentery is more common in tropical locales that have poor sanitary conditions. Amebic dysentery is also known as amebiasis.

Apart from diarrhea with mucus or blood, other common symptoms of dysentery include:

  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

Dysentery symptoms usually take about 1-3 days to show up. Some people may take longer to show symptoms, while others may never get any.

What Causes Dysentery?

One of the primary causes of both amebic and bacillary dysentery is poor sanitation. Note that both kinds are highly infectious and can be spread from one infected person to another. How does it spread? It happens so when an uninfected person comes in contact with the feces of an infected person through:

  • Contaminated water and food
  • Swimming in contaminated water
  • Physical contact
  • A person may also contract bacillary dysentery in the following ways:
  • Swallowing contaminated river or lake water when swimming
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their eyes, mouth, or nose
  • Not washing hands properly after using the bathroom
  • Having sexual contact with an infected person

On the other hand, Amebic dysentery usually occurs when people consume water or food contaminated with feces containing Entamoeba eggs. 

How To Treat Dysentery? Effective Remedies

Dysentery can be easily diagnosed with the help of stool samples. People suffering from bacillary dysentery can take OTC pain relievers and medicines to manage painful symptoms like diarrhea and belly cramps. 

However, in most cases, bacillary dysentery usually passes on its own within one week. If the symptoms are persistent even after a week, you can consider consulting a doctor and taking antibiotics.

People with amebic dysentery are usually treated with medicines to kill the parasites in their intestines, liver, or blood. 

In both cases, be sure to keep yourself hydrated and stay away from people until you’re completely cured. Remember, dysentery is very contagious. 


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