Dysentery - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Dysentery is a condition of the intestinal system due to which severe diarrhea occurs along with blood. Moreover, it may be accompanied by mucus. The episode may last for 3 to 7 days. Usually, it spreads due to poor sanitary hygiene. If someone does not wash their hands after using the bathroom, they can transmit it to a healthy person. Moreover, it also spreads through contaminated food and water. The causative agents for dysentery can be bacteria or any other parasite. Most commonly, it occurs due to bacteria called shigella, which causes a condition called shigellosis. However, the most common parasite that causes it is Entamoeba histolytica.

You may remain asymptomatic for a long time- which means you may have the parasite inside your body, but it doesn't show any symptoms. But you can spread it to others in this period.


In most cases, it takes 3 to 7 days for the infection to show up once you get infected. However, in some people, it may take longer than that. Whereas in some, it may never show any symptoms. The signs and symptoms of dysentery may vary according to the causative agent. 

Bacillary dysentery may show the following signs and symptoms.

  • Fever 

  • Loose stools with abdominal cramps

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Blood and mucus in stool

Amoebic dysentery mostly does not show any signs and symptoms. One may feel them 2 to 4 weeks later of getting infected. The signs and symptoms of amoebic dysentery are:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Weight loss

  • Fever

  • Abdominal cramps

Sometimes amoebic dysentery can lead to complications like pus in the liver, which is a serious condition and shows the signs and symptoms as:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen

  • Swollen liver

  • Unintentional weight loss

Risk factors 

The major risk factor for getting dysentery is if you live in an area where it is prevalent. There are huge chances that you get it from drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. However, if you live in the places where overall prevalence of dysentery low, you are at risk if;

You travel or work in areas where dysentery is prevalent.

You work as a microbiologist and handle its samples.

You have been in close contact with someone who has been recently diagnosed with dysentery or has recovered soon.

Drinking contaminated water.


To prevent dysentery, practice the following measures;

  • Wash hands after using the toilet

  • Wash hands before cooking or touching food

  • Drink clean water. It is better to boil it before drinking

  • Cook food under proper hygienic conditions 

  • Avoid eating uncooked food, especially when dining out

  • Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables


To treat dysentery, the healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics or antiprotozoal drugs, depending upon the causative agent. Along with it, most importantly, they will ask you to rehydrate yourself. You can drink an oral rehydration solution to replenish lost electrolytes. Make sure you keep rehydrating yourself, otherwise, it can result in a life-threatening condition. 


Dysentery is a condition of the intestinal system due to which severe diarrhea occurs along with blood. If left untreated, it can become life-threatening. To protect yourself against it, you must drink clean water. If you live at a place where dysentery is prevalent, boil the water before drinking. 

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