Botulism is an extremely rare and serious condition that is caused by a chemical known as botulinum toxin. The chemical is considerably toxic, and it is produced by bacteria known as clostridium botulinum. Botulism occurs primarily when the bacterium is able to invade the body and colonize the digestive tract. The bacterium usually enters the body through an open wound or through contaminated food.
Botulism can eventually spread throughout the body, causing paralysis. In severe cases, the bacterium can spread to the lungs of the infected person, causing paralysis of the lungs and complete respiratory failure. Since botulism is life threatening and could cause several complications, cases of botulism are treated as medical emergencies.
The symptoms of botulism are very similar to many other diseases, and since the disorder in itself is extremely rare, getting a diagnosis can be extremely challenging. It is because of these reasons that botulism is often misdiagnosed and complications arise. Sometimes, when the doctor is unable to make a correct diagnosis, several other tests may be recommended in order to eliminate some of the other conditions with similar symptoms.
There are a variety of tests involved in the diagnosis of botulism. A test for botulism initially begins with the doctor making a study of the medical history of the patient. The doctor will ask about anything that the patient may have eaten or consumed. The doctor will also briefly ask about any long-term diseases and medications that have been taken. After the doctor has noted the medical history of the patient, a physical exam is performed wherein the doctor looks for signs of botulism. This physical examination includes a brief inspection of the eyes, followed by a neurological examination. Further testing for botulism includes lab tests of both blood and stool, where the clinician tries to find traces of the bacterium.
Apart from botulism testing, to get an accurate diagnosis, a brain scan, a nerve conduction test, a lumbar puncture to obtain and examine the spinal fluid, and a tensilon test to exclude myasthenia is conducted. In botulism tests, there is another thing that makes the diagnosis extremely difficult. Since there are several tests that are required for the diagnosis of the disorder, in most cases, it takes up to four days to make a diagnosis. Also, the test is available only in a few laboratories.