What is Bowel Infection?

A bowel infection is an illness caused by pathogens that invade a person's digestive tract. The bowel, also called the large intestine, is the lower part of a person's digestive tract. It is home to many types of bacteria that do not cause infection. Sometimes, however, harmful bacteria may be present in high enough numbers to cause illness. Likewise, viruses and other pathogens can cause infection as well.

When a person has a bowel infection, he may experience rather unpleasant symptoms. For example, a person with this type of infection may develop diarrhea, which are loose, watery stools. In some cases, the bowel movements aren't loose, but become hard and difficult to move instead. A person may also develop strange-looking bowel movements as a result of a bowel infection. For example, they may be an unusual shape or color.

Besides symptoms that involve the appearance and consistency of a person's bowel movements, a bowel infection may also be marked by a certain amount of discomfort. For example, a person may experience bloating and gas along with this type of infection. His abdomen may be distended, and he may have an overall feeling of being unwell. In some cases, a bowel infection is also accompanied by fever or bleeding from the rectum.

Sometimes a bowel infection can develop as a symptom or effect of a digestive-tract-related disorder. In fact, this type of infection may even contribute to the development of bowel disorders. For example, a person may develop a bowel infection that triggers the immune system to try to destroy the pathogen that caused it. This immune system attack may cause inflammation in the bowel that leads to ulcerative colitis, which is marked by pain, diarrhea, and a full range of other symptoms.

Diagnosing a bowel infection can be unpleasant for the affected person. Often, a doctor requests a stool sample in order to be sure of the origins of the infection. In fact, he may require multiple stool samples in order to provide an accurate diagnosis. For example, a doctor may ask his patient to collect a sample over three different days, transporting them to the medical office or a lab for evaluation. The stool is then checked for the presence of illness-causing microorganisms.

Once a doctor has determined the cause of a bowel infection, he can treat it accordingly. This may involve antibiotics or rest and fluids, depending on the severity of the infection and its cause. In some cases, laxatives are prescribed as well.