The infection is caused by the C diff bacterium. It makes toxins as it grows. This bothers the lining of the intestine.
The intestines have a healthy balance of bacteria that help with digestion. Antibiotics can disturb this balance by killing some bacteria which lets others grow in their place. C diff may be able to grow after certain antibiotics.
The infection can also spread:
This problem is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Problems range from mild to severe and may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Common tests are:
Rarely, the intestine may need to be viewed to look for changes. This can be done with an endoscopy.
People who have C diff but do not have symptoms do not need to be treated.
The goal of treating people who do have symptoms is to treat the infection. Choices are:
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Proper hand washing is the best way to lower the risk of this problem. Other ways are:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Public Health Agency of Canada
Clostridium difficile infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/clostridioides-clostridium-difficile-infection-in-adults-19. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Clostridium difficile infection information for patients. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/cdiff/cdiff-patient.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.
C. difficile care at home. C Diff Foundation website. Available at: https://cdifffoundation.org/2014/08/14/c-difficile-care-at-home. Accessed January 29, 2021.
McDonald LC, Gerding DN, et al. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Clostridium difficile Infection in Adults and Children: 2017 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA). Clin Infect Dis 2018 Mar 19;66(7):e1.
C difficile-a rose by any other name... Lancet Infect Dis. 2019 May;19(5)449. Available at www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(19)30177-X/fulltext?rss=yes. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 4/20/2021