What is it?
Diarrhea is typically the loose, watery and more frequent bowel movements. It is a commonly occurring condition right from childhood to old age.
If diarrhea lasts for more than two days, it might be an indication of a serious illness like, inflammatory bowel disease, which requires immediate medical help.
Diarrhea can be classified into two, that is,
- Acute Diarrhea can be defined as the abrupt fluid or semisolid discharge of fecal matter that lasts for less than 14 days.
- Chronic Or Persistent Diarrhea is a serious condition that lasts for more than 14 days. It is related to chronic diseases such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease etc.
The following are the symptoms related to diarrhea,
- Loose, watery stools
- Abdominal cramps
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Frequent bowel movement
There are a variety of causes for diarrhea some of which are given below,
- Virus: is a common cause of diarrhea, especially in children. Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, viral hepatitis, and rotavirus are a few examples.
- Bacteria and Parasites: found in food and water can infect the body and cause diarrhea. For eg., E.coli, salmonella, and cryptosporidium.
- Medications such as antibiotics, antacids etc.
Lactose Intolerance: is the inability of the patient to digest lactose present in most dairy products.
- Fructose: found naturally in fruits and honey can cause diarrhea for patients who cannot digest it.
- Surgery: some patients who underwent abdominal or gallbladder removal surgery might have diarrhea.
- Digestive Disorders such as ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, microscopic colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome can cause chronic diarrhea.
The doctor usually performs the following diagnostic methods to confirm the cause of diarrhea,
- Complete physical examination
- Investigation of the patient’s medical history
- Blood test is done in order to determine the blood count
- Stool test is performed to evaluate if it is a bacterial or parasitical infection.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy is a diagnostic method where a thin, long hollow tube with a lens attached to one end is inserted through the colon to view and receive images of the lining of the colon. In some cases, a biopsy might be taken to ensure the cause.
Some cases of diarrhea clear up on its own within a few days. Acute or chronic diarrhea requires medical assistance in order to be treated. Some treatment methods for diarrhea are as follows,
- Antibiotics are used for diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites. If affected by a virus, antibiotics will not treat the condition.
- Treatment to replace fluids. In this method, water, fruit juices and soups are given to the patient with the required minerals and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Specific juices such as apple juice would make the condition worse.
- If a certain medication is the cause of this condition then the doctor might lower the dosage of the medicine or prescribe an alternate medication.
- If chronic disorders are the cause of diarrhea, the doctor might consult a gastroenterologist to create a treatment plan.
- Lifestyle changes such as drinking plenty of clear liquids, slowly adding semi-solid food to the diet, avoiding certain food items such as dairy products, highly seasoned foods, high fiber, and high-fat foods until the bowel movements are back to normal.