Diarrhea is a common problem characterized by loose watery stool and sometimes more frequent bowel movements.
Fortunately, diarrhea usually lasts for a short period, no more than a few days. On the other hand, if you have diarrhea for weeks or more, you may have a condition such as an irritable bowel disorder or a more serious disorder, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
- Loose or watery stools
- Painful cramps in the abdomen
- Tummy ache
- Blood in the stool
- Mucus in stool
- An urgent and frequent need to have a bowel movement
You should visit a doctor if diarrhea persisted more than a few days, and you feel severe pain in the abdomen or rectum or noticed that your stool is blood-stained or black.
What are the causes of diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be caused by viruses such as Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, and viral hepatitis. Moreover, rotavirus or rotavirus is a common cause of acute diarrhea in childhood.
Contaminated food or water can transfer bacteria and parasites into your body.
These medications include antibiotics, which can cause diarrhea. The antibiotics kill both beneficial and harmful bacteria, which may upset the balance of bacteria in the gut. Other medicines that cause diarrhea are cancer medicines and antacids containing magnesium.
Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and its derivatives. People who have difficulty digesting lactose develop diarrhea after consuming dairy products.
Fructose is a type of sugar found naturally in fruits and honey. It can lead to diarrhea in people who have difficulty digesting fructose.
Sorbitol and mannitol – which are artificial sweeteners found in gum and other sugar-free products – can cause diarrhea in some healthy people.
Abdominal surgery and cholecystectomy can sometimes cause diarrhea.
Chronic diarrhea has different causes, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, microscopic colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
How is diarrhea diagnosed?
Your doctor will review your medical history, ask you about the medications you take, perform a physical examination, and may order tests to determine the cause of diarrhea.
- Blood test. A complete blood count test can help determine the cause of your diarrhea.
- Stool test. Your doctor may recommend a stool test to see if bacteria or parasites are causing diarrhea.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Your doctor can see the inside of the colon using a thin, lighted tube inserted into the rectum. The device is also equipped with an instrument that allows the doctor to take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) from the colon.
How is diarrhea treated?
Most cases of diarrhea resolve on their own within two days without treatment. And if you have tried lifestyle changes and home remedies for diarrhea with no success, your doctor may recommend other medications or treatments.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites. However, antibiotics will not work if the virus is causing diarrhea.