Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time as a hospital inpatient. No matter what the reason is for their admission, when someone is hospitalized they face a growing threat that spreads quickly: an infection known as clostridium difficile
, or C. diff.
What is C. diff and how is it diagnosed?
C. diff is a highly contagious bacterial infection that attacks the colon. Its primary symptoms are severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and fever. Risk factors for developing C. diff include recent antibiotic use, being immunocompromised, and hospitalizations. It's easily transmitted by direct contact. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease and it's treated with immunosuppressants, so those of us with Crohn's have a higher risk of contracting C. diff.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of C. diff mimic many common Crohn's symptoms. Early detection is crucial because undiagnosed C. diff can become very serious and in some cases can be lethal. Doctors usually err on the side of caution if they suspect C. diff and order tests to rule it out. Testing for C. diff includes bloodwork and a stool sample. If a positive result comes back, antibiotics are started immediately. Sometimes hospitalization is required to administer IV antibiotics and fluids to avoid dehydration.
Once you have had C. diff, you are more likely to contract the infection again. I had my first experience with C. diff at age 19. I had three risks factors at the time: a five-week hospital stay, recent IV antibiotics, and an immunodeficiency disorder called hypogammaglobulinemia
. The first signs I e