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Diarrhea: The Basics

  • All
  • Diarrhea
  • Causes
  • Symptoms & Diagnosis
  • Treatments

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is defined as three or more liquid or watery bowel movements per day. It is an extremely common condition that everyone will get at least once in their lifetime. Most cases are mild and go away on their own.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea can be caused by a number of conditions. The list includes viruses, bacteria, parasites, medications, surgery, and infections. It may also be caused by eating to much of certain things such as fructose and artificial sweeteners. Having digestive disorders such as lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome may also cause diarrhea.

What causes chronic diarrhea?

Chronic diarrhea is usually caused by underlying digestive disorders or diseases. Some examples include Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease. These conditions require medical intervention to help with chronic diarrhea symptoms. 

When should you see a doctor for diarrhea?

You should see a doctor about your diarrhea if it has lasted for more than two days. Other reasons to visit a doctor include exhibiting signs of dehydration, having abdominal or rectal pain, having bloody or black stools, and having a high fever. If the person is an infant, child, elderly, or frail, a doctor’s visit is recommended within 24 hours if no improvement is seen.

How do you stop diarrhea?

Most bouts of diarrhea do not require treatment. However, some doctors may supply you with antibiotics or oral rehydration solutions depending on the cause of the diarrhea. Home care guidelines include drinking plenty of water, getting enough rest, and watching for any serious symptoms such as dehydration or blood in the stool. The biggest concern is dehydration as massive amounts of fluids can move out the GI tract with severe diarrhea.

How long does diarrhea last?

Usually, diarrhea lasts a few days at most. Diarrhea that lasts longer may indicate a more serious problem. Diarrhea that lasts more than two days puts the person at risk for dehydration, so liquid intake should be increased. Seek medical attention if severe diarrhea lasts more than two days or earlier that if the person experiencing diarrhea is frail, elderly, or a child. 

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