Diarrhea is more than three loose, liquid stools in a single day. It depletes the body of fluids and electrolytes. Diarrhea can be: If the body loses too much fluid, it can become dehydrated. Dehydration is especially dangerous for babies, young children, and elderly people.
Causes may include:
Food intolerance, such as
- Magnesium-containing antacids
- Irritable bowel syndrome, which is episodes of diarrhea often alternate with periods of
- Injury to the bowel after radiation treatments for cancer
Malabsorption syndromes, such asCeliac disease
- Diseases of the pancreas and/or gallbladder
Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
Chronic diseases, such as:
- Liver disease
- Colon cancer
- Intestinal surgery
Infections such as:
Bacterial, such as salmonella
Viral, such as
Fungal, such as
Diarrhea is more than three loose, liquid stools in a single day. It depletes the body of fluids and electrolytes. Diarrhea can be:
- Acute—Occurring suddenly and lasting briefly
- Recurring—Coming and going
If the body loses too much fluid, it can become
dehydrated. Dehydration is especially dangerous for babies, young children, and elderly people.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may insert a gloved finger into your rectum to examine it. This is called a digital rectal exam.
To determine the cause of your diarrhea, the doctor will ask questions, such as:
- Does anyone else in your family have diarrhea?
- What kinds of food have you eaten recently?
- Do you drink well water?
- Do your children attend daycare?
- Have you traveled recently?
- Do you use laxatives?
- What medications do you take?
- Do you have any symptoms other than diarrhea, such as fever, rash, or aching joints?
- What is your sexual history?
- Have you ever had abdominal surgery?
Tests may include:
- Your bodily fluids, tissues, and waste products may be tested. This can be done with:
- Laboratory analysis of a stool sample
- Blood tests
- You may need to have your rectum and colon examined. This can be done with:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- You may need to have images taken of your colon. This can be done with:
- Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series
- Barium enema
Barium Enema Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
To reduce your chance of getting diarrhea:
- Practice good handwashing.
- Practice safe food preparation and food storage.
- If you have diarrhea, do not prepare food for others.
If you are traveling:
- Drink bottled water.
- Use bottled water when brushing your teeth.
- Avoid drinks that contain ice.
- Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.
- Do not eat raw vegetables or fruits. All produce should be peeled and/or cooked.
- Make sure meats and seafood are cooked thoroughly.
- Eat only pasteurized dairy products.
- If you eat seafood, make sure it is very hot.
Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhea in children under five years of age. There is a
to prevent rotavirus. The first dose is given at age two months. Make sure your infant has received this vaccine.
Risk factors include:
to a developing country where the water and food supply may be contaminated
- Taking certain medications
- Having a severely weakened immune system, such as with AIDS or after an organ transplant
Symptoms may include:
- Frequent, loose, liquid stools
- Abdominal pain, cramping
- Urgent need to defecate
- Blood and/or mucus in stool
- Nausea, vomiting
- Muscle aches and pains
- Weight loss
Treating the underlying condition may help to relieve the diarrhea.
General recommendations for treating diarrhea include: