A gastrointestinal condition usually provoked by bacterial or parasitic infections is called dysentery. The most common dysentery symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weight loss, painful stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea. Physicians often diagnose this condition with a stool culture. They prescribe antibiotics to treat this disorder.

What is Dysentery?

A severe gastrointestinal condition that provokes diarrhea with blood or mucus is called dysentery. Check below the two main types of dysentery:

  • Bacillary Dysentery – This dysentery type is usually caused by a bacterial infection. The most common bacteria are Shigella, salmonella, campylobacter, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Moreover, this dysentery type is the most common.
  • Amoebic Dysentery (Amoebiasis) – This dysentery type is provoked by a parasitic infection. The common parasites that provoke this condition are Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica), Balantidium coli (B. coli), and strongylodiasis.

If you leave this gastrointestinal disease untreated it can be fatal. That’s why you should see a doctor right away if notice any of the dysentery symptoms.

This is a health condition that can impact anyone, especially in tropical areas with poor water sanitation. A process that makes water safe to consume is called sanitation. You are at higher risk of developing dysentery if you do not practice good hygiene. Therefore, you should regularly wash your hands. Otherwise, you may contaminate food, water, or surfaces.

This gastrointestinal condition is considered common. About 1.7 billion dysentery cases occur every year around the world, according to some research.


The symptoms usually vary among people because it depends on the type and severity of the condition you experience. Examples include:

Amoebic Dysentery

  • High fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The parasite can move in other parts of your body and cause abscesses but is very rare.

Bacillary Dysentery

  • Abdominal pain (stomach cramps)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea with blood or mucus

In severe dysentery cases, you may experience extreme inflammation of the large intestines and acute kidney disease.

Can Dysentery Lead to Death?

Without treatment, this condition can provoke death, especially in young children, people over 50 years old, and those who have dehydration or malnutrition.


The bacterial and parasitic infections that provoke this gastrointestinal condition are very contagious and can spread to other people in the following cases. For example:

  • Sexual contact (especially involving the anus)
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • When someone prepares food without washing their hands or has poor hygiene

Bacillary dysentery occurs when certain bacteria enter your body and Amoebiasis happens when the parasites enter the body. Check below the most common bacteria:

  • Shigella
  • Salmonella
  • Campylobacter
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)


First, doctors will ask you about symptoms and medical history. Thereafter, they can perform some tests and a physical examination. In most cases, doctors will perform a test called stool culture. Therefore, you have to collect a small sample of poop and return it to your doctor. Your healthcare professional will send the collected sample to the laboratory to check for bacteria, parasites, and parasite egg cells (ova).

Additionally, healthcare professionals may advise a sigmoidoscopy. During this procedure, your doctor can examine the inside of the lower colon and rectum.


Doctors often prescribe Metronidazole if you experience dysentery due to a parasitic infection. However, if you have bacterial dysentery, physicians usually prescribe antibiotics and over-the-counter medications to lessen the symptoms such as nausea.

The duration of the treatment is prescribed by your doctor and may last several days to a week for bacillary dysentery. If you experience a severe form of dysentery you may need antibiotics, IV fluid (used to prevent dehydration), and blood transfusion (rarely). However, it may take roughly 2 weeks to notice any improvements if you experience parasitic dysentery. Check below for some tips that can help you if you have dysentery:

  • Do not use any diarrhea medicines (such as Lopiramide) because it can worsen the symptoms.
  • A common symptom of diarrhea is dehydration. Thus, drink plenty of water because it will help to prevent dehydration.
  • Use nonprescription medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to prevent fever and pain. For example Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and others.
  • You can also use another nonprescription medicine (such as Bismuth Subsalicylate) to treat nausea.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I see my doctor?

It is recommended to visit a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms. Examples include:

  • Dark urine
  • Urinating problems
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth or cough
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swollen feet
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lack of tears

What is the difference between cholera and dysentery?

Both conditions (cholera and dysentery) are gastrointestinal diseases. The only difference between them is the causes that provoke them.

Is it possible to prevent dysentery?

Yes, one of the best methods to prevent this gastrointestinal disease is good hygiene. It is recommended to wash your hands regularly, especially before preparing or eating food.

Check below for other ways to prevent this gastrointestinal condition:

  • It is not advised to share personal items such as toothbrushes, glasses, towels, and others.
  • You should not drink the water if you are not sure it is sanitized.
  • Do not contact with people with dysentery.
  • Wash well fruits and vegetables before eating or preparing them.
  • Cook all foods thoroughly.

In case you are traveling in places where dysentery is common, you should not consume any products or drink water that is not in a sealed container or pasteurized. The process that kills bacteria is called pasteurization.

How can I prevent the spreading of dysentery?

Check the following tips and you can avoid the spreading of the infection:

  • It is not recommended to have any sexual contact if you have dysentery
  • Avoid other people
  • You should now swim
  • Do not prepare food for others
  • Wash your laundry at temperatures at least 130 F degrees (60 C degrees)
  • You should also clean disinfecting products and regularly clean sinks, toilets, door handles, and others.

Ask your healthcare professional if you have any additional questions.

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