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Dysentery: Causes & Symptoms.

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Dysentery is our body’s response to unwanted foreign bodies in the digestive system. The possible causes of dysentery include a parasitic amoeba called  Entamoeba histolytica  or a number of bacteria, including  shigella and salmonella. Infection of E. histolytica is called amoebiasis and any resultant bloody diarrhoea is called amoebic dysentery. Infections of shigella bacteria can lead to bacillary dysentery and they are called shigellosis which contributes a major part to the list of dysentery causes.  

Types of dysentery

There are mainly 2 kinds of dysentery:

  • Bacillary dysentery, or shigellosis: This is caused by bacteria shigella. This type of dysentery is pretty common in the United Kingdom.
  • Amoebic dysentery, or amoebiasis: This is caused by the bacteria Entamoeba histolytica, which is predominantly found in tropical areas.

Diarrhoea is a common health condition in which a person suffers from watery and loose stool. Dysentery, on the other hand, is an infection or inflammation of the intestine that can lead to the presence of blood in the watery stool. It is also referred to as bloody diarrhoea.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD


Normally, it is a condition that is more widespread in tropical areas where the warm climate is favourable for the production of bacteria. This does not mean that it will not occur elsewhere. However, the combination of poor civic hygiene and tropical weather is a combination that will support the circle of dysentery causes.  

It is therefore of the utmost importance to consume food that is properly cleaned before cooking and then thoroughly cooked. Water should also be boiled thoroughly and/or passed through a water decontamination system before being consumed as it ranks on top of the list of dysentery causes.  

Those suffering from the condition need to practice extra concern to ensure that dysentery causing bacteria are not re-introduced into their system. In such a situation, a relapse will almost certainly lead to worse symptoms in the patient as their body will already be weakened by the initial illness.

Hormonal changes, bowel infections, and underlying bowel disorders can all cause diarrhea during pregnancy. If diarrhoea lasts for more than 48 hours, consulting your gynaecologist is highly recommended especially if it is accompanied by fever, dehydration, and vomiting.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.


The symptoms can last for five to seven days or even longer. The course of the illness varies with individuals, as do the symptoms. Some people suffering from dysentery may have only mild symptoms, while others may have severe diarrhoea which can occur with or without vomiting that can end up posing a risk of dehydration. Fortunately, dysentery can be treated with antibiotics and anti-parasitic medications.

Untreated dysentery can lead up to severe dehydration. Severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can result in shock or coma and may be life-threatening. Seek immediate medical care from a professional if you have symptoms of severe dehydration such as lethargy, loss of consciousness, confusion, cold skin or decreased urine output. Seek timely medical care if you develop diarrhoea and vomiting and believe you may have been exposed to contaminated water or food.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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