Diarrhea Basics

Diarrhea describes bowel movements (stool or poop) that are loose and watery. It is common to have episodes once every few months and it is typically not serious. Chronic diarrha, or commonly-occurring loose stools can be caused by a variety of illnesses and require further diagnosis. Prolonged diarrhea persisting for more than 2-3 days may be a sign of a more serious problem and poses the risk of dehydration. Chronic diarrhea may be a feature of a chronic disease.

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which means the body lacks enough fluid to function properly. Dehydration is particularly dangerous in children and older people.

Types of diarrhea:

Osmotic Diarrhea

Condition when something in the bowel is drawing water from the body into the bowel. Sugar substitutes, such as sorbitol, that are not absorbed by the body but draw water from the body into the bowel, resulting in a disproportionate ration of water to solid in the stood and cause diarrhea.

Secretory Diarrhea

Occurs when the body is releasing water into the bowel when it's not supposed to. This can happend from infections, drugs, and other abnormal conditions.

Exudative Diarrhea

Presence of blood and pus in the stool. This occurs with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, and several other infections.

Causes of Diarrhea

Stomach or intestinal flu is the most common cause of diarrhea. Diarrhea may also be caused by:

Accompanying Diarrhea Symptoms

Symptoms of diarrhea can be broken down into uncomplicated (or non-serious) diarrhea and complicated diarrhea (dangerous):

Symptoms of uncomplicated diarrhea include:

In addition to the symptoms described above, the symptoms of complicated diarrhea include:

Contact your doctor if you have prolonged diarrhea or a fever that lasts more than 24 hours. Also see your doctor promptly if vomiting prevents you from drinking liquids to replace lost fluids.

Diarrhea Treatements

Mild cases are handled by just waiting or taking an an over-the-counter medicine like Pepto-Bismol, Imodium A-D, or a number of others. Home remedies include drinking lots of water, fruit juice without pulp, chicken broth or tea with honey. Drink small amounts of fluids frequently.

Is Diarrhea Harmful on its Own?

Yes. Ongoing diarrhea causes the body to lose large amounts of water and nutrients. If you have watery stools more than three times a day and you are not drinking enough fluids, you could become dehydrated, which can cause serious complications if not treated. Notify your doctor if you have ongoing diarrhea and are experiencing any of the following signs of dehydration:

Signs of dehydration in young children include:

Diarrhea and Vomiting

Most common causes of diarrhea and vomiting are infections, especially viral infections. Bacteria and parasites can also cause diarrhea and vomiting. Sometimes the problem are just simple viral infections Besides infections, vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by food allergies, food intolerance, Malabsorption Syndrome, food poisoning or irritable bowel syndrome.

Explosive Diarrhea

Explosive diarrhea can last for a number of days or become chronic. Explosive diarrhea is horrid condition that usually comes about from a bad bacterial stomach/intestinal virus. The reason it is called explosive is that the stool comes out of the body much faster and with more force that typical liquid stools.

More about Explosive Diarrhea

Steatorrhea (excessive fat in stool)

Steatorrhea is a symptom of a number of digestive problems in which the fecal matter is frothy, foul-smelling and floats because of a high fat content. It is common in malabsorption syndromes and is often called floating diarrhea.

More about Steatorrhea (floating stool)

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