Some people carry the bacterium C. difficile in their intestines but never become sick, though they can still spread the infection. C. difficile illness usually develops during or within a few months after a course of antibiotics.
Mild to moderate infection
The most common symptoms of mild to moderate C. difficile infection are:
- Watery diarrhea three or more times a day for two or more days
- Mild abdominal cramping and tenderness
In severe cases, people tend to become dehydrated and may need hospitalization. C. difficile causes the colon to become inflamed (colitis) and sometimes may form patches of raw tissue that can bleed or produce pus (pseudomembranous colitis). Signs and symptoms of severe infection include:
- Watery diarrhea 10 to 15 times a day
- Abdominal cramping and pain, which may be severe
- Blood or pus in the stool
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen abdomen
- Kidney failure
- Increased white blood cell count
When to see a doctor
Some people have loose stools during or shortly after antibiotic therapy. This may be due to C. difficile infection. See your doctor if you have three or more watery stools a day and symptoms lasting more than two days or if you have a new fever, severe abdominal pain or cramping, or blood in your stool.