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How Effective Is Metronidazole for Colitis?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Metronidazole is effective in treating colitis when the condition occurs because of organisms susceptible to this anti-infective medication. Laboratory analysis of stool samples can tell physicians if organisms are present and to what species they belong. Colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine, commonly called the colon. Individuals experiencing this ailment have abdominal bloating and swelling accompanied by pain and watery stools that appear black or contain blood. Other symptoms include fever, chills, and dehydration due to fluid loss.

Health care providers usually prescribe metronidazole for colitis that is caused by microorganisms including Clostridium difficile, Giardia lamblia, and Helicobacter pylori. After consumption, the body alters this antimicrobial medication so that the molecules permeate microbial cell membranes. Once inside the single-celled organisms, intracellular proteins operate on the formulation, causing free radical formation. This chemical reaction disrupts normal cellular activity and inhibits replication, causing cell death.

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Depending on the specific organism, metronidazole dosages range from 250 milligrams to 750 milligrams taken orally in capsule or tablet form two to four times a day for up to 10 days. Patients taking metronidazole for colitis should not consume alcohol or they may experience headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Manufacturers also recommend that individuals refrain from alcohol consumption for up to three days after finishing the prescription. The antimicrobial also enhances the effects of blood thinning medications. Taking metronidazole with medications that are metabolized by the liver typically eliminates the drug from the body too quickly or inhibits the normal elimination process.

Manufacturers do not guarantee the safety of metronidazole for colitis in pregnant or lactating women because of the possibility that infants may develop birth and growth defects. Common metronidazole side effects include appetite loss, headache, nausea, and yeast infections. Some people experience a metallic taste, and rarely, patients develop a skin rash. More serious adverse reactions include seizures and nerve damage exhibited as numbness or tingling in the extremities. Some patients may develop encephalopathy or meningitis while taking metronidazole for colitis.

Besides colitis, uses for metrodinazole include infections anywhere in the body caused by specific anaerobic bacteria, amebic organisms, or protozoan microbes. The sexually transmitted infection known as Trichomoniasis and caused by the organism of the same name is also treatable with metrodinazole. Along with a topical cream, gel, or lotion, physicians sometimes prescribe the medication as treatment for acne rosacea and bacterial vaginitis. The gel can also be used for jock itch or for a skin condition known as folliculitis.

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