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Are You Suffering Dysentery? Here's What You Need to Know

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 21, 2021

Are You Suffering Dysentery? Here's What You Need to Know

Dysentery is an inflammation of the intestinal tract, usually of the colon. This intestinal infection is primarily caused by specific types of bacteria or amoeba. The condition varies from mild to severe. Severe conditions of the disease may become life-threatening unless adequate hydration is ensured at all times.

Let’s take a look at the major types of dysentery:

  • Bacillary dysentery or shigellosis: In this case, the symptoms become apparent within 1 to 3 days of the infection. This condition is generally mild in nature and does not require professional treatment.
  • Amoebic dysentery or amoebiasis: A certain species of amoeba spreads into the bloodstream and infects other organs by making its way through the intestinal wall. The symptoms, which we will discuss later in this article, are usually severe and it requires treatment.


There are various symptoms of this medical condition. Not everyone with the disease experiences all the symptoms. The symptoms range from mild and moderate to severe. The severity of the symptoms depend on the quality of sanitation of the locations that have been affected by it.

The medical condition tends to be mild to moderate in the developed countries. Patients in developing countries and tropical parts of the world are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with a severe condition of dysentery.

Mild symptoms of dysentery manifest themselves between 1 and 3 days after contracting the infection. The recovery period is usually a week from the start of treatment. The symptoms of mild conditions are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Slight pain in the stomach
  • Lactose intolerance might develop in some people, which may continue for as long as several years

The symptoms differ to some extent depending on the type of dysentery.

Symptoms of bacillary dysentery

Let’s take a look at the likely symptoms:

  • Frequent bouts of diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Slight stomach pain
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Blood or mucus in stool

Symptoms of amoebic dysentery

The common symptoms of amoebic dysentery are:

  • Fever and chills
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea with mucus, pus, or blood
  • Intermittent constipation
  • Pain while passing stool


The causes of the medical condition also depend on the type of bacteria that is responsible for it.

Causes of bacillary dysentery

Caused due to the growth of bacteria called shigella bacillus, bacillary dysentery or shigellosis occurs due to poor hygiene. Contaminated food may also be one of the sources.

Causes of amoebic dysentery

Amoebic dysentery or amoebiasis is caused by an amoeba called Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica). The infection may occur due to poor sanitation, leading to the contamination of food and water. This amoeba can survive for a long span of time outside the human body, lingering on people’s hands after a visit to the washroom. Once they enter the body, they fuse together to form a cyst, which is excreted along with the faeces. Maintaining good hygiene at all times is the only effective solution for preventing the spread of this amoeba.

Other causes

Chemical irritation, viral infections and parasitic worm infections may also cause dysentery.

Risk factors and complications

Risk factors of this conditions include:

  • Poor sanitation
  • Eating unhygienic food
  • Drinking contaminated water

Below are some possible complications of the health condition:


Frequent bouts of diarrhea and vomiting rips the body of its water content, leading to dehydration. This may even prove to be life-threatening amongst infants and young children.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome

Shigella dysenteriae can make the red blood cells (RBCs) block the opening of the kidneys. This, in turn, may cause kidney failure, anemia, or low platelet count.

Liver abscess

An abscess can form in the liver if the amoebae spreads to the organ.

Postinfectious arthritis

A dysentery infection may lead to pain in the joints.


Dysentery may also raise the risk of seizures.


The diagnostic procedure usually followed for this health condition is as below:

Physical examination

Your doctor will examine you thoroughly on the basis of your symptoms.


The doctor will ask you about your present and past medical history as well as your genetic medical history. This will help him/her evaluate whether the symptoms are side effects of drugs that you are taking currently or have taken in the recent past. This process assists doctors in eliminating some possible causes and moving closer towards successful diagnosis of the health condition.

Medical tests

Your doctor is likely to advise you to take a stool test. Diagnostic imaging tests like endoscopy and ultrasound scan may be recommended in case of severe symptoms. 


Mild symptoms of the condition do not usually require treatment. The symptoms subside on its own within a few days. In case of severe vomiting and dysentery, intake of plenty of healthy fluids like water is highly recommended to prevent dehydration. If the individual is unable to drink, intravenous (IV) fluid replacement may become necessary. In such cases, the individual will be placed on a drip and his/her condition will be monitored closely. 

The treatment for this medical condition, if required, depends on the type of agent that has caused the infection – shigella bacteria or entamoeba histolytica bacteria. 

Treatment for mild bacillary dysentery

Mild cases of bacillary dysentery usually get treated through home remedies like drinking plenty of fluids. Severe cases may require antibiotics.

Treatment for amoebic dysentery

Amoebicidal medications like metronidazole are usually recommended to treat dysentery caused by this amoeba. These medications not only effectively destroy the amoeba, but also prevent a recurrence of the infection. These medications are effective for amoebic, bacterial, and parasitic infections.

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

Lifestyle changes and home remedies that you need to ensure to treat dysentery are:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after a visit to the bathroom.
  • Make sure the water you are drinking is safe for consumption.
  • Watch the rim of water bottles you use at home. Also, clean the rim of mineral water bottles before you drink from them.
  • Use clean drinking water in cooking and making ice cubes.
  • Clean and rinse your mouth with water of reliable quality. 
  • Don’t buy peeled fruits and vegetables.
  • Make sure that you have a closed garbage bin at home.
  • Regularly change and treat the water in swimming pools.

Key takeaway

Dysentery is an inflammation of the intestinal tract. Bacteria or amoebas may cause dysentery.  Symptoms for dysentery include diarrhea, cramps, and pain in the stomach. Making sure you only take clean water helps prevent dysentery.

Learn more about Digestive Problems here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 21, 2021

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