AskDefine | Define dysentery

Dictionary Definition

dysentery n : an infection of the intestines marked by severe diarrhea

User Contributed Dictionary



From dissenterie, from dysenteria, from , from ‘dys-’ + ‘bowels’.


/ˈdɪsɛntəɹi/, /ˈdɪsəntɹi/


  1. A disease characterised by inflammation of the intestines, especially the colon, accompanied by pain in the abdomen, severe diarrhea and often with blood in the feces.

See also

Extensive Definition

Dysentery (formerly known as flux or the bloody flux) is an infection of the digestive system that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and blood in the feces and is typically the result of unsanitary water containing micro-organisms which damage the intestinal lining. There are two major types of dysentery due to micro-organisms: amoebic dysentery, and bacillary dysentery mainly due to one of three bacteria. Dysentery can also be caused by certain medications; for example, some steroids can impact bowel movements.

Amoebic dysentery

Amoebic dysentery (or amebic dysentery) is caused by the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica.
Amoebic dysentery is transmitted through contaminated food and water. Amoebae spread by forming infective cysts which can be found in stools and spread if whoever touches them does not sanitize their hands. There are also free amoebae, or trophozoites, that do not form cysts.
Amoebic dysentery is well known as a "traveler's dysentery" because of its prevalence in developing nations, or "Montezuma's Revenge" although it is occasionally seen in industrialized countries. Liver infection, and subsequent amoebic abscesses can occur.

Bacillary dysentery

Bacillary dysentery is mostly commonly associated with three bacterial groups:

Symptoms and complications

Symptoms include frequent passage of feces/stool, loose motion and in some cases associated vomiting. Variations depending on parasites can be frequent urge with high or low volume of stool, with or without some associated mucus and even blood.
Once recovery starts, early refeeding is advocated avoiding foods containing lactose due to temporary [can persist for years] lactose intolerance.
= Treatment = seealso Amoebiasis Treatment The first and main task in managing any episode of dysentery is to maintain fluid intake using oral rehydration therapy. If this can not be adequately maintained, either through nausea and vomiting or the profuseness of the diarrhoea, then hospital admission may be required for intravenous fluid replacement. Ideally no antimicrobial therapy is started until microbiological microscopy and culture studies have established the specific infection involved. Where laboratory services are lacking, it may be required to initiate a combination of drugs including an amoebicidal drug to kill the parasite and an antibiotic to treat any associated bacterial infection.
Amoebic dysentery can be treated with metronidazole. Mild cases of bacillary dysentery are often self-limiting and do not require antibiotics, which are reserved for more severe or persisting cases; campylobacter, shigella and salmonella respond to ciprofloxacin or macrolide antibiotics.

Miscellaneous references

  • O. Uplavici was the fictional author of the article About dysentery whose name persisted in science literature for fifty years.
  • Additionally, dying of dysentery has become a pop culture reference to the 1980s computer game, The Oregon Trail. The disease was one of several afflictions the player could die from, prompting the phrase, "You have died of dysentery."
  • Lars Eighner writes about experiencing dysentery at least once a month during the time he lived as a homeless man dumpster diving.
  • The band Blink-182 has a song called "Dysentery Gary" in which diarrhoea is mentioned.
  • John McCain suffered from dysentery while a POW.
  • Elie Wiesel, a renowned Holocaust survivor, described in his book Night his father suffering from dysentery while imprisoned in Buchenwald, a concentration camp of Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.
  • In the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall, Allen's character jokes that two leading intellectual magazines, Dissent and Commentary, had merged to form Dysentery. An oblique reference to intellectual pretense.
  • In the movie Pulp Fiction, Captain Koons played by Christopher Walken informs a young Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) that his father had died from dysentery after concealing a wrist watch inside of his anus for five years.
  • Harrison Ford apparently suffered from it while filming Raiders of the Lost Ark in Tunisia; this partially resulted in his suggesting that rather than have an elaborate fight with a sword-wielding assassin, Indiana Jones should just shoot him - a now famous gag in the movie.
  • In the video game Gears of War for the Xbox 360, the character Baird says "We are going to get Dysentery from this shit!" referring to the food of the stranded people.
  • In the film Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams jokes that it would terrible if his ex-wife came down with amoebic dysentery, leading to a gross and vague description of the illness by his son.
  • In the book On the Road, the main character Sal Paradise suffers from dysentery at the end of his time in Mexico.
  • Dysentery is a frequently-mentioned malady in the TV series M*A*S*H.
  • The Tom Lehrer song "In Old Mexico" (on the album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer) has the lines "We ate, we drank, and we were merry/And we got typhoid and dysentery."
  • The English Privateer Sir Francis Drake died from dysentery in 1596.
  • John of England died from dysentery in 1216.

See also


dysentery in Min Nan: Lī-chi̍t
dysentery in Catalan: Disenteria
dysentery in Danish: Dysenteri
dysentery in German: Bakterienruhr
dysentery in Esperanto: Disenterio
dysentery in Spanish: Disenteria
dysentery in French: Dysenterie
dysentery in Croatian: Dizenterija
dysentery in Hebrew: דיזנטריה
dysentery in Icelandic: Blóðsótt
dysentery in Italian: Dissenteria
dysentery in Lithuanian: Dizenterija
dysentery in Dutch: Dysenterie
dysentery in Japanese: 赤痢
dysentery in Norwegian: Dysenteri
dysentery in Norwegian Nynorsk: Dysenteri
dysentery in Polish: Dyzenteria
dysentery in Portuguese: Disenteria
dysentery in Russian: Дизентерия
dysentery in Simple English: Dysentery
dysentery in Slovak: Dyzentéria
dysentery in Slovenian: Griža
dysentery in Serbo-Croatian: Dizenterija
dysentery in Finnish: Punatauti
dysentery in Swedish: Dysenteri
dysentery in Thai: โรคบิด
dysentery in Turkish: Dizanteri
dysentery in Chinese: 痢疾

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

African lethargy, Asiatic cholera, BM, Chagres fever, German measles, Haverhill fever, abscess, acute articular rheumatism, ague, alkali disease, amebiasis, amebic dysentery, anemia, ankylosis, anoxia, anthrax, apnea, asphyxiation, asthma, ataxia, atrophy, bacillary dysentery, backache, bastard measles, black death, black fever, blackwater fever, bleeding, blennorhea, bloody flux, bowel movement, breakbone fever, brucellosis, bubonic plague, cachectic fever, cachexia, cachexy, cardialgia, catharsis, cerebral rheumatism, chicken pox, chill, chills, cholera, cholera morbus, colic, constipation, convulsion, costiveness, coughing, cowpox, crap, cyanosis, dandy fever, deer fly fever, defecation, dejection, dengue, dengue fever, diarrhea, diphtheria, dizziness, dropsy, dumdum fever, dyspepsia, dyspnea, edema, elephantiasis, emaciation, encephalitis lethargica, enteric fever, erysipelas, evacuation, fainting, famine fever, fatigue, fever, fibrillation, five-day fever, flu, flux, frambesia, glandular fever, gripe, gripes, grippe, growth, hansenosis, heartburn, hemorrhage, hepatitis, herpes, herpes simplex, herpes zoster, high blood pressure, histoplasmosis, hookworm, hydrophobia, hydrops, hypertension, hypotension, icterus, indigestion, infantile paralysis, infectious mononucleosis, inflammation, inflammatory rheumatism, influenza, insomnia, irregularity, itching, jail fever, jaundice, jungle rot, kala azar, kissing disease, labored breathing, lepra, leprosy, leptospirosis, lientery, loa loa, loaiasis, lockjaw, loose bowels, low blood pressure, lumbago, madness, malaria, malarial fever, marasmus, marsh fever, measles, meningitis, milzbrand, movement, mumps, nasal discharge, nausea, necrosis, obstipation, ornithosis, osteomyelitis, pain, paralysis, paratyphoid fever, parotitis, parrot fever, pertussis, pneumonia, polio, poliomyelitis, polyarthritis rheumatism, ponos, pruritus, psittacosis, purgation, purge, pyrosis, rabbit fever, rabies, rash, rat-bite fever, relapsing fever, rheum, rheumatic fever, rickettsialpox, ringworm, rubella, rubeola, runs, scarlatina, scarlet fever, schistosomiasis, sclerosis, seizure, septic sore throat, shingles, shit, shits, shock, skin eruption, sleeping sickness, sleepy sickness, smallpox, snail fever, sneezing, sore, spasm, splenic fever, spotted fever, stool, strep throat, swamp fever, tabes, tachycardia, tetanus, thrush, tinea, trench fever, trench mouth, trots, tuberculosis, tularemia, tumor, turistas, typhoid, typhoid fever, typhus, typhus fever, undulant fever, upset stomach, vaccinia, varicella, variola, venereal disease, vertigo, viral dysentery, voidance, vomiting, wasting, whooping cough, yaws, yellow fever, yellow jack, zona, zoster
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