Clostridium difficile (C. diff) starts in the intestine. C. diff makes toxins as it grows. These toxins irritate the intestinal lining, leading to swelling and pain. The infection causes diarrhea and severe illness.
Treating C. diff
You don't need treatment if you don't have symptoms.
If antibiotics have led to infection, we can stop or change them. Mild infections will usually go away with time.
Antibiotics can treat a C. diff infection.
Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT)
A stool with healthy bacteria from a donor can restore a healthy balance of bacteria. Learn more about FMT.
Severe or repeated infections may need surgery.
We remove the infected part of the colon. We then join the two healthy ends of the colon together.
Ileostomy with Irrigation
We pull your small intestine through your stomach. This lets stool leave your body. We can also then flush out the infected colon.
How Do You Get C. diff?
You can pick up C. diff from dirt and other surfaces. The bacteria travels from your hands to your mouth.
Your intestines have a healthy balance of bacteria. This bacteria helps digestion. When you take antibiotics, you can upset this balance. Antibiotics kill both healthy and unhealthy bacteria. This creates an environment where C. diff can grow.
You increase your chance of infection if you have:
- Taken certain medications, like antibiotics
- Recently stayed in the hospital
- Stomach disease
- History of C. diff infection
- Weakened immune system
- Not been washing your hands
Symptoms of C. diff Infection
Symptoms could include:
- Watery diarrhea at least three times within 24 hours
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Loss of appetite
To diagnose C. diff, you may need stool and blood tests. Your provider might also get an endoscopy, X-ray or CT scan.
Proper hand-washing is the best way to prevent C. diff. Always wash with soap and water. Wash your hands every time you use the bathroom.
You can also:
- Take probiotics
- Take antibiotics as prescribed
- Clean with disinfectants, especially when people are sick
- Make sure any healthcare staff who comes in contact with you washes their hands first
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.