Diarrhea vs. Dysentery

The major difference between diarrhea and dysentery is that diarrhea may affect small bowel or large bowel resulting in increased frequency of stools while dysentery is the disease of the large gut (mainly colon) resulting in bloody stools.

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Diarrhea vs. Dysentery

Both diarrhea and dysentery are the diseases of intestine resulting in increased frequency and amount of stools. Often they are considered the same thing, but both have many differences in them. Diarrhea may be of small gut or large gut, but dysentery is the disease of the large gut (colon).  Small gut diarrhea results in watery stools, and after defecation, there are sensations of complete evacuation. In large gut diarrhea, there is a sensation of incomplete evacuation after passing the stools and stools are not watery. Small gut diarrhea does not contain mucus while in large gut diarrhea, mucus is present. When blood is also present in stools along with mucus, it is regarded as dysentery.

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In diarrhea, the patient is usually not toxic, but in dysentery, the patient is toxic having a high-grade fever, abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, and  weakness. In diarrhea, upper epithelial cells of intestinal wall are affected while in dysentery, the whole wall of the colon may involve resulting in ulceration. If diarrhea is left untreated, the immune system recovers it within 2 to 3 days by fighting against the infection while if dysentery is left untreated, it will result in fatal complications and even death.

The complication of diarrhea includes dehydration while complications of dysentery are severe including dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and septicemia which can cause death. There are many causative organisms of diarrhea like E.Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus species and Klebsiella while the most common causative organism of dysentery is ameba. Cell death does not occur in diarrhea while cell death can take place in case of dysentery.

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For the treatment of diarrhea, oral rehydration salt is the best modality. In severe cases, antibiotics may be given among which metronidazole is the drug of choice nowadays. For the treatment of dysentery, oral rehydration salt is given. Antibiotic therapy is a must, and antidiarrheal drugs are also added. If no response to antibiotics, them amebicides are also given. If the patient is severely dehydrated, then IV fluids are also given. Ringer lactate is best for resuscitation.

Contents: Difference between Diarrhea and Dysentery

Comparison chart

Basis Diarrhea Dysentery
Definition Diarrhea can be defined as an increased frequency of stools (more than 200gm per day).Dysentery is a type of diarrhea along with the presence of blood and mucus in stools.
Affected parts of the gut Diarrhea may be of small gut or large gut.Dysentery specifically involves the large gut (colon).
Clinical presentation The patient is usually not toxic. No fever or abdominal pain and cramps. Pulse rate is normal.The patient is toxic. There is high-grade fever, tachycardia, abdominal pain, and cramps.
Types Diarrhea is divided into two types, osmotic diarrhea, and secretory diarrhea.It is not further divided into subtypes.
Complications The major complication is dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.Major complications are dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, septicemia and ulceration of intestine.
Which cells are affected Upper epithelial cells of the gut are affected.Upper epithelial cells of the gut are affected first, but if not treated well, the whole wall of the intestine may be affected.
Cell death Cell death usually does not take place.Cell death can occur if not treated well.
Treatment Oral rehydration  salt is the mainstay of treatment. If diarrhea is severe, antibiotics may also be given. Metronidazole is the drug of choice nowadays.Oral rehydration is the mainstay of treatment. Antibiotics and antidiarrheal agents are also given. In severe cases, amebicides are also added in the regimen.
Causative agents Usually, bacteria cause diarrhea. They include E.coli, Klebsiella, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio cholera, etc.The most common causative agent is Entamoeba histolytica. But certain bacteria may also cause this condition, e.g., Salmonella, Shigella.

What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea can be defined as increased in the amount of stool (more than 200gm per day) or increase in the frequency of stools (more than normal habits) or increase in the urgency of stools or feeling of incomplete evacuation after passing the stools. Diarrhea is further divided into two types, i.e., secretory diarrhea and osmotic diarrhea. Secretory diarrhea occurs when the secretion of water and electrolytes (mainly sodium) is more than normal in the gut or absorption of water and sodium from small intestine does not take place. Osmotic diarrhea is said to occur when there is osmotically active substance in the gut which hinders the absorption of water and electrolytes from the gut.  Diarrhea may be of the small intestine or large intestine. The patient affected with small bowel diarrhea presents with frequent watery stools. There are no signs of toxicity and feeling of complete evacuation after passing the stools. Large gut diarrhea is characterized by small volume diarrhea with the presence of mucus in it. Diarrhea is treated by ORS solution and antibiotics if needed.

What is Dysentery?

Dysentery can be defined as “bloody diarrhea with the presence of mucus in it.” It is due to the involvement of large gut (mainly colon). If it is not treated properly, may cause septicemia, intestinal ulcers, and even death. Death of intestinal cells may also occur. The most common agent causing dysentery is Entamoeba histolytica. Certain bacteria may also cause dysentery like Salmonella, Shigella, etc. For the treatment, ORS and antibiotics are given. If the patient is severely dehydrated, IV solutions are also given. Antidiarrheal agents and amebicides are also added in severe cases.

Key Differences

  1. Diarrhea can be defined as an increase in the frequency or amount of stools while dysentery is the presence of blood and mucus in stools along with diarrhea.
  2. Diarrhea is a less severe condition. Its common complication is dehydration and electrolyte imbalance while dysentery is a fatal condition if left untreated.
  3. Diarrhea may be of two types, e., small gut diarrhea and large gut diarrhea while dysentery occurs due to the involvement of large gut (colon).
  4. Cell death does not take place in diarrhea but may take place in dysentery.
  5. In diarrhea, the patient is not toxic while in dysentery, the patient is toxic having a high-grade fever, increased pulse rate, abdominal pain, and

Conclusion

Diarrhea and dysentery are two commonly occurring diseases in society. Often they are confused with each other. It is compulsive for medical students to know the differences between both of them. In the above article, we learned the clear differences between diarrhea and dysentery.

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