What Is Diarrhea? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Diarrhea is a common ailment that most everyone experiences from time to time. It is characterized by the passing of loose, watery stool accompanied by abdominal pain and cramping.

Diarrhea typically clears up on its own within a few days, but severe or chronic diarrhea that lasts for weeks can be a sign of a serious health problem that needs medical attention.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

The most important and recognizable symptom of diarrhea is loose, watery stools three or more times a day. Diarrhea can also cause the following symptoms.

Abdominal pain or cramps
Urgent need to go to the bathroom
Controlling bowel movements
If diarrhea is caused by an infection, people may also experience it.

Bloody stools
To vomit
I have a fever and a cold
Lightheadedness and dizziness
Diarrhea can also cause dehydration and discomfort, each with its own symptoms.

Symptoms of dehydration include: thirst, less frequent urination, dark urine, dry mouth, feeling tired, eyes or cheeks, light redness or fainting, and loss of skin (when skin tightening) If it is done (it is not flattened as usual).

Symptoms of malabsorption include bloating, gas, loss of appetite, weight loss, and lethargy, fatness, bad bowel movements, notes the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (1)

Causes of Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be caused by a number of factors. The most common causes of diarrhea are:

Infections There are three types of infections that cause diarrhea:

Viral infections, including norovirus and rotavirus
Bacterial infections, which can enter the body through contaminated food or water. Common bacteria that cause diarrhea include Campylobacter, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella and Shigella.
Parasitic infections, in which parasites enter the body through food and water and enter the digestive tract. Common parasites that cause bacteria include Cryptosporidium, Entomobiba histolytica, and Jordia lambelia.
Traveler’s Diarrhea This type of diarrhea occurs when traveling abroad, usually in a developing country, by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites. Traveler’s diarrhea is usually severe, but some parasites cause the diarrhea to last longer.

Medication Side effects Many medications can cause diarrhea. If you believe your medication is causing your diarrhea, talk to your healthcare provider. He may change the diet or change you to another medicine.

Food Allergies and Intolerance Diarrhea is sometimes caused by allergies to certain foods such as milk, soy, eggs, or seafood. In these cases, diarrhea is often chronic.

Lactose intolerance is a common condition that causes diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms after you eat or drink liquids containing cow’s milk or dairy products. Celiac disease, which is caused by an allergy to gluten, can also cause chronic diarrhea.

Digestive disorders Diarrhea can be a sign of more serious health problems, such as digestive disorders. These may include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

Diarrhea can also be a sign of an increase in bacteria in the small intestine. (1)

How Diarrhea Is Diagnosed?

Many people experience diarrhea and do not receive an official diagnosis because it often clears up on its own. People with chronic or chronic diarrhea should seek medical help so that a doctor can diagnose the cause.

Diarrhea tests include blood tests, stool tests, colonoscopy, and flexible sigmoidoscopy, according to the Mayo Clinic. (2)

Duration of Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be either severe or short-lived. Or chronic, which means it lasts longer. Generally, severe diarrhea will go away on its own in a few days.

Chronic, or severe, diarrhea lasts two to four weeks and can indicate a serious health problem. For people with compromised immune systems, chronic diarrhea can be a life-threatening illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted. (3)

How to Prevent Diarrhea

Although diarrhea may be an indication of an underlying health condition and may be unavoidable, there are other steps you can take to avoid it.

The most important thing you can do to avoid diarrhea is to wash your hands frequently. After using the bathroom, before preparing or eating food, before and after caring for a sick person, after touching a whip, and after animals, animal food and animal waste. Be sure to wash your hands after touching.

If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol, according to a CDC. (4)

Another important way to prevent diarrhea in children is to get them vaccinated against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea in most children and young children. The virus can also cause vomiting, fever, and dehydration. The CDC recommends that children receive the first dose of rotavirus vaccine at 2 months of age. The second dose should be given at 4 months of age, and the third, if needed, at 6 months of age.

The CDC says the rotavirus vaccine will protect children from severe diarrhea caused by rotavirus and most children will not get rotavirus diarrhea at all. (5)

The CDC notes that, ultimately, when traveling abroad, you can see what you eat and drink and take steps to prevent diarrhea in travelers. As a precaution, talk to your doctor before taking antibiotics. (6)

Treatment Options for Diarrhea

Sometimes, diarrhea can indicate a health problem and requires medical attention.

But in most cases the lack of diarrhea usually goes away in a few days and does not cause further health problems. There are steps you can take at home to help treat diarrhea.

If you have diarrhea, the following may help you feel better.

Replace fluids. Drink plenty of water, as well as fruit juices or sports drinks, and eat soup with clear broth to help replenish lost electrolytes. Pay attention to the amount of sugar in these drinks, as too much sugar can worsen the symptoms of diarrhea.

Eat poor food. Blended food will be easier on your digestive system and can help reduce the symptoms of diarrhea. The Blend Diet contains foods that are soft, not spicy, and low in fiber. You should also avoid raw foods, fried foods, and beverages with alcohol or caffeine.

Try over-the-counter (OTC) medications. In most cases of diarrhea, over-the-counter medications can help reduce the discomfort caused by diarrhea. Options include loperamide, commonly known as amode, and bismuth subcellulose, or pepto-bismol.

Antibiotics may be needed. If your diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help you feel better. A round of antibiotics can help treat diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites. However, if your diarrhea is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help.

Treat basic problems. Diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious health condition, such as a food allergy or indigestion. Your doctor will work with you to diagnose the underlying problem through testing and to develop an appropriate treatment plan. (2)


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