Gastroenteritis

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Published November 24, 2019

Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie

This is the consequence of an infection that occurs in the alimentary tract in which there is an inflammation of the lining of the walls of the intestine with the result that certain changes occur to alter the normal flow of contents . These contents are faeces , water and bacteria but may also include worms and their ova , cysts from various sources and other substances which get into the gut but are not wanted by the body. Many times , these unwanted things get into our digestive system because of what we eat and drink .

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The offending organisms reproduce in large numbers , cause the accumulation of a lot of gas and the production of large volumes of water which are passed out with the stool . So the sources are contaminated food and water and the consequences are often unpleasant . Diarrhoea is, in the main, a disease of poverty , ignorance and improper hygiene where people use and drink water from contaminated sources over which they often have no control. Therefore, it is a condition that is often found in the poorest communities of the world where ignorance , poverty and other disease conditions are already prevalent.

The absence of potable water , the prevalence of open drains in the surrounding environment especially those that often overflow with silt and waste , remain some of the most prevalent sources of diarrhoea in the world . Add the ominous absence of proper sewage control and the unplanned nature of much of the world ’s habitats and there is a deadly mix of waste , bacteria and dirty water ( toxic soup ) which gets into our stomach through drinking water and food to cause the problems we see today . In countries like Nigeria , Pakistan and India such outbreaks of major disease may be seasonal whereby there is a relationship between the onset of monsoon rains and an outbreak of diseases of this nature . In sub -Saharan Africa , this is more usually known as the rainy season when there is so much rainfall and traditional sources of getting potable water are overrun with dangerous effluent : dangerous because all sorts of micro -organisms are present in it.

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And although bacteria are often the culprits to be blamed for diseases of this nature , other microbes like the viruses are also important contributors . The consequences of any such infection are abdominal pain which is crampy in character . The pain is intermittent with periods in which it is like something is being twisted inside the intestines . This is associated with an intense feeling of vomiting followed at some point by actual vomiting . There is a partial or complete loss of appetite and there may be an associated fever which begins in a low grade manner at the start and steadily becomes a more serious , more constant presence . Any substance taken in by mouth is vomited and with the passage of time , when there has been no treatment , frequent vomiting may be added to the picture . The stools are typically watery; they may be voluminous and contain mucus or even blood at some point. If these latter additions are only occasional , there is no change in nomenclature but , if the frequency of the appearance of the mucus and blood increases , that becomes dysentery in terms of classification .

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The stools are of various types of appearance : they may be just watery, containing little amount of fecal material and this is the typical type of stool seen in the more severe conditions like cholera . In other diarrheal conditions , there may be more faeces in relation to the watery content but it remains a severe illness all the same . The amount of stool is often copious and the patient becomes weak in a short period of time . This weakness is a result of losing body water but also electrolytes such as potassium ions , chlorides and sodium . No muscle contraction , for example , is possible in the absence of potassium and this situation can have dire consequences for the person as basic functions like breathing becomes progressively weak. The heart also begins to fail and can suddenly stop functioning . Diarrhoea of any sort is a major disease , therefore, and needs to be treated with adequate speed and aggressiveness once it begins . And in the absence of sodium ions , many types of transportation of important requirements in the body are either impaired or abolished. And that is the basis for advising people who are at the early stages of their infection to drink lots of water containing both salt and sugar to replenish these substances . On the other hand , the stools may not be that watery but be frequent all the same . When stools exceed three motions a day , it is classified as diarrhoea even if the stools are well -formed .

The water , salt and sugar therapy is not the definitive treatment . It is merely the home remedy available to combat the early stage of the illness when the person can still absorb something and remains conscious enough to be aware of their environment . The sugar provides some energy which is rapidly lost when diarrhoea is profuse . The salt contains sodium , chloride and some trace elements which all help to replenish those ions that the body is losing . The water is equally important in replacing the fluids lost through the stools and the vomiting . In the end , the definitive treatment of this ailment is received in the hospital by healthcare professionals who will replace body losses with the use of intravenous fluids that contain the various elements we have mentioned above .

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This is the quicker approach as it replenishes losses faster as the infusion of the relevant fluids and electrolytes are determined by direct observation and assessment of the patient rather than having to make do with getting in as little as possible in a patient that may also be vomiting .

In addition , when there is an infusion set up for a sick patient , it is much easier and far more precise to administer the required antibiotics and other ancillary treatments to more rapidly heal the patient ’s condition . When left untreated , this is an ailment that can progress quickly into a state of profound weakness, unresponsiveness to the people around them and then degenerate into a state of confusion, loss of consciousness and even death. The term gastroenteritis may sound like a truly scary thing and it is. However , it is an eminently treatable condition if the necessary intervention is instituted quickly enough so that the best outcome will result. However , as has been stressed previously on this page and at other forums dedicated to healthcare , it is clear that in all situations, prevention if possible is better than cure . It is a cheaper alternative at all times and it prevents the sort of panic that often grips societies when there is a fresh outbreak of disease . That said , it is important to know that governments in all the relevant jurisdictions everywhere must invest more money in the relevant infrastructure so that more might be achieved. Flood control , sewage management and more education are vital in these pursuits .

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