Diarrhea - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Diarrhea is a common health problem in which you need to have more frequent bowel movements. It is characterized by loose, watery stools. Often diarrhea lasts for one to two days. However, it can be acute or chronic- that lasts for at least four weeks. Generally, it goes away on its own. But sometimes, you need to take an antibiotic or an antiprotozoal drug if it turns infectious. Diarrhea that remains for a long time indicates some other underlying health condition like irritable bowel syndrome or persistent infection. 

Symptoms


The signs and symptoms of diarrhea are;


  • Abdominal pain

  • Fever

  • Blood in the stool

  • Mucus in the stool

  • Loose, watery stools

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement


Causes


There can be various cause for diarrhea like;


Viruses


Viral infections can also cause loose, watery stools. Viruses that may cause it are;


  • Norwalk virus

  • Cytomegalovirus 

  • Viral hepatitis

  • Rotavirus in children 

  • COVID- 19 also causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea


Bacteria


Drinking water or eating food that is contaminated can transmit bacteria to your body, eventually causing diarrhea. If you travel to developing countries and get diarrhea, it is called travelers diarrhea. 


Drug-induced


Many medications cause diarrhea as a side effect. Some antibiotics like clindamycin and clarithromycin are one of them. It occurs because your gastrointestinal system contains some bacteria that are healthy for your body and help digest food, known as the normal flora. Since antibiotics kill bacteria, they also kill the healthy ones you need for digesting food, eventually causing loose and watery stools. Other drugs that may cause diarrhea are;


  • Antacids

  • Magnesium 

  • Corticosteroids 

  • Laxatives


Lactose intolerance


Lactose intolerance is a condition in which your body can not digest lactose- a sugar found in milk, due to which diarrhea occurs. People having lactose intolerance find it difficult to digest dairy products. The problem can increase as you age because the enzymes that help digest milk decline over time. Those with lactose intolerance should drink lactose-free milk to prevent diarrhea. 


Fructose 


Fructose- a sugar found in fruits can also cause diarrhea. Sometimes it is also used as a sweetener in different beverages and desserts, eventually causing loose and watery stools. 


Artificial sweeteners


Sorbitol and mannitol are the artificial sweeteners used in chewing gums, candies, and other sugar-free products. They can also cause diarrhea in some healthy people. 


Surgery 


Surgeries like abdominal surgeries, colon resection, or gallbladder removal can also cause diarrhea. 


Digestive system diseases


Some digestive system diseases can also cause chronic diarrhea. Some of them are;


  • Chrons disease

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Microscopic colitis 

  • Irritable bowel syndrome


Complications


The major complication of diarrhea is dehydration, which, if left untreated, can become life-threatening. The signs and symptoms of dehydration are;


  • Excessive thirst

  • Dry mouth or skin

  • Little or no urination

  • Weakness

  • Dizziness 

  • Lightheadedness

  • Fatigue

  • Dark-colored urine


Treatment 


To treat diarrhea, the healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics or antiprotozoal drugs, depending upon the causative agent. Along with it, most importantly, they will ask you to rehydrate yourself. You can drink an oral rehydration solution to replenish lost electrolytes. Make sure you keep rehydrating yourself, otherwise, it can result in a life-threatening condition. 


Conclusion 


Diarrhea is a common health problem in which you need to have more frequent bowel movements. It is characterized by loose, watery stools. Often diarrhea lasts for one to two days. However, it can be acute or chronic- that lasts for at least four weeks. Generally, it goes away on its own. But sometimes, you need to take an antibiotic or an antiprotozoal drug if it turns infectious. The major complication of diarrhea is dehydration. Therefore make sure you keep rehydrating yourself if you have loose, watery stools. 


Doctors For Diarrhea

Dr. Zia Ullah

General Physician

5 Years

Dr. Zeeshan Ahmad Chughtai

General Physician

3 Years

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