Shigella infection usually clears up without complications, although it may take weeks or months before your bowel habits return to normal.

Complications may include:

  • Dehydration. Persistent diarrhea can cause dehydration. Symptoms include lightheadedness, dizziness, lack of tears in children, sunken eyes and dry diapers. Severe dehydration can lead to shock and death.
  • Seizures. Some children who run high fevers with a shigella infection have seizures. It's not known whether the convulsions are a result of the fever or the shigella infection itself. If your child has a seizure, contact your doctor immediately.
  • Rectal prolapse. In this condition, straining during bowel movements may cause the mucous membrane, or lining, of the rectum to move out through the anus.
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome. This rare complication of shigella, more commonly caused by bacteria called E. coli, can lead to a low red blood cell count (hemolytic anemia), low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) and acute kidney failure.
  • Toxic megacolon. This rare complication occurs when your colon becomes paralyzed, preventing you from having a bowel movement or passing gas. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, fever, and weakness. If you don't receive treatment for toxic megacolon, your colon may break open (rupture), causing peritonitis, a life-threatening infection requiring emergency surgery.
  • Reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis develops in response to infection. Signs and symptoms include joint pain and inflammation, usually in the ankles, knees, feet and hips; redness, itching and discharge in one or both eyes (conjunctivitis); and painful urination (urethritis).
Aug. 24, 2012

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