Diarrhoea is a condition in which stools discharge from the bowels in a liquid form or frequently. Diarrhoea can occur due to various causes including quick stool passage through the intestine, excess fluid secretion into the intestine, or reduction in fluid absorption from the intestine. Abdominal pain is one of the major symptoms of diarrhoea. Many people suffer from this common problem of diarrhoea. It can be temporary, mild or life-threatening diarrhoea. Diarrhoea occurs due to viruses, parasites or bacteria. Chronic diarrhoea can occur due to inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. If it is acute diarrhoea, then it will end in one or two days. On the other hand, if it is chronic diarrhoea then it may take at least four weeks. Chronic diarrhoea continues for a long time and may come and go. People of any age can catch diarrhoea. Electrolyte abnormalities, anus irritation, and dehydration are some of the complications associated with diarrhoea. It is a serious problem for kids, elder people and weakened immune system people.

Symptoms of Diarrhoea

The symptoms of diarrhoea depend on the type or cause of your diarrhoea. Check out various common symptoms of diarrhoea:

-  In diarrhoea, stools discharge frequently or in a liquid form. People feel an urgent need to use the washroom.

-  Watery stools are generally accompanied by other symptoms including pain in the stomach, bloating, a weight loss, chills, fever, thirst and cramps in the abdomen.

-  There can be some serious symptoms too including persistent vomiting, pus or blood in the stools and dehydration.

What Causes Diarrhoea?

Generally, diarrhoea occurs due to an infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteria, parasites or viruses cause this infection in the gastrointestinal tract.

Check out some of the possible causes of diarrhoea:

-  There are certain drugs that can lead to diarrhoea including antacids containing magnesium, medicines taken for cancer and antibiotics.

-  Food sensitivities and intolerances can also lead to diarrhoea. There are the problems that people face in digesting some foods including lactose intolerance.

-  Bacteria that are generally found in contaminated water and food can lead to diarrhoea.

-  Viruses including norovirus, rotavirus, or flu are some of the causes of diarrhoea. Generally, children suffer from acute diarrhoea due to rotavirus.

-  Parasites can also lead to diarrhoea. These are also found in the contaminated water of food.

-  Sometimes, diarrhoea can also occur after the surgery of the stomach. In some cases, surgeries can cause the food movement quick through the digestive system.

-  Those diseases which affect the small intestine, colon, or stomach can cause diarrhoea including Crohn's disease.

-  If there is any problem in the functioning of the colon then also diarrhoea can occur. Irritable bowel syndrome is the possible cause of diarrhoea.

If diarrhoea stays for a long time, then it is important to know the cause of diarrhoea. If it is for a few days then the cause is not required. Sometimes, the exact cause of diarrhoea is not known.

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How is Diarrhoea diagnosed?

As soon as you experience the severe symptoms of diarrhoea, you should visit a doctor for the diagnosis. Your doctor will ask about the symptoms that you are experiencing. You may be asked about your medical conditions, medical history and medicines if you are taking any currently.

The other questions that your doctor may ask include:

-  When did diarrhoea start?

-  How many times a day you are going for stools?

-  Are you facing the problem of vomiting?

-  Are the stools pus-filled or watery?

-  Is blood coming with the stool?

-  How much stool there is?

Your doctor will check if you have any signs or symptoms of dehydration. If you are suffering from severe dehydration then it is a serious problem as it can lead to a complication. Severe dehydration should be treated urgently with rehydration therapy. Most of the diarrhoea cases recover without any treatment.

Generally, doctors can diagnose diarrhoea without conducting any test. Sometimes, in severe cases, a doctor may ask to get the stool test done. Tests are often done when the affected person is old or young.

Tests are also required if a person has severe pain, a low blood pressure, pus-filled stools, stools with blood, symptoms of dehydration or fever, diarrhoea from more than a week and a weakened immune system.

If a person is suffering from chronic diarrhoea then the doctor may ask to get various tests done in order to rule out the underlying cause. Tests may be done in order to get the information about the following:

-  For the complete blood cell count: It will help to know about an elevated platelet count or anaemia which will suggest if there is any inflammation or swelling.

-  To check liver function: Liver function tests are conducted to check how well the liver is working. These tests are done for albumin levels.

-  To diagnose malabsorption: These tests are conducted to check the absorption of folate, calcium and vitamin B-12. They also help in finding the thyroid function and iron status.

-  To diagnose celiac disease: Antibodies testing may help in diagnosing celiac disease.

-  To diagnose inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate are the laboratory tests that may help to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease.

Prevention of Diarrhoea

These days, preventing diarrhoea is a challenge due to poor sanitation facilities and dirty water. Check out various ways that will help you to prevent yourself from diarrhoea:

-  You should have good sanitation facilities.

-  You should always drink safe and clean water.

-  You should avoid eating raw vegetables and fruits without washing and peeling.

-  You should eat food that is served hot and fully cooked.

-  If you are using the tap water then you should boil it or use the tablets of iodine.

-  Washing hands frequently is a good hygiene practice that you should follow.

-  You should wash your hands with soap after disposing the stool of a kid, after cleaning child's stool, after defecation, before eating and before preparing a meal.

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Treatment of Diarrhoea

Acute diarrhoea generally gets resolved without any treatment. But the cases of chronic or persistent diarrhoea require treatment depending on the underlying cause and symptoms of diarrhoea.

- Rehydration: Dehydration is the common symptom of diarrhoea. Kids and elder people are more prone to dehydration. Generally, all the cases of diarrhoea can be cured by rehydration. In these cases, a person should drink a lot of fluids. Oral rehydration products including Rehydralyte and Oralyte are easily available online and offline. Zinc supplements are used to reduce the period of diarrhoea and severe symptoms in kids. Oral rehydration solution is a type of water replacement containing salt and glucose.

- Antidiarrheal medicines: There are various over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicines available. Imodium or Loperamide is an antimotility medicine used to reduce the stool passage. You can purchase these medicines over-the-counter without a prescription and online also. Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) helps to reduce the output of diarrheal stool in children and adults. Traveller's diarrhoea is also prevented by this medication. You can this medication over-the-counter as well as online.

- Antibiotics: Antibiotics or anti-bacterial medicines are used to cure diarrhoea that occurs due to a bacterial infection. If diarrhoea has occurred due to a certain medication then the patient should switch to another medicine.

- Diet: The affected person should consume fluids including fruit juice without sugar. After defecation, the person should drink at least a cup of fluid in order to replace fluids lost. It is important to drink between meals instead of during meals. The affected person should have liquids and foods containing high-potassium including bananas and diluted fruit juices. Liquids and foods containing high-sodium including soups, salted crackers, sports drinks and broths should also be taken. Caffeinated beverages should be avoided. Sugar-free gum, prunes, mints, and sweet cherries can make your diarrhoea worse, so these items should be avoided.

- Probiotics: These are used for preventing traveller's diarrhoea. Diarrhoea that is associated with antibiotic also reduces with probiotics. These are available in tablets, powders, liquids, and capsules.

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Dehydration and malabsorption are the two major complications associated with diarrhoea.

- Dehydration: Due to acute or chronic diarrhoea, dehydration can occur. Dehydration can threaten your life. Due to dehydration, your body suffers from loss of fluids. During dehydration, one should drink a lot of fluids.

- Malabsorption: Malabsorption is associated with chronic diarrhoea. In malabsorption, the small intestine is not able to absorb enough of fluids and nutrients.

Common Myths About Diarrhoea

Myth #1: Due to teething, diarrhoea can occur.

Fact: A lot of parents think that teething is the reason for diarrhoea. There can be a coincidence that teething and diarrhoea are occurring at the same time. But, teething is not the cause of diarrhoea.

Myth #2: You should drink caffeinated beverages when you are suffering from diarrhoea as caffeine helps you to be alert and civilised for the persistent use of the toilet and also relaxes your abdomen.

Fact: It is a misconception. You should avoid those foods and beverages which contain caffeine including tea and coffee. Caffeinated beverages and foods can make your diarrhoea worse.

Myth #3: There is no risk involved in diarrhoea and it can be resolved without any treatment.

Fact: There are a lot of complications associated with diarrhoea including dehydration and malabsorption. Chronic or persistent diarrhoea needs immediate treatment. Sometimes, diarrhoea can also lead to death. So, it is important that as soon as you experience that the symptoms of diarrhoea are severe, you should visit a doctor.

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Diarrhoea occurs because of viruses, parasites or bacteria. Diarrhoea can be a fatal problem if symptoms are severe. Any person of any age group can suffer from diarrhoea. Frequent stool discharge, stool discharge in liquid form, stomach pain, bloating, a weight loss, chills, fever, thirst, and cramps are some of the symptoms of diarrhoea.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms or suffering from chronic diarrhoea then you should visit a doctor. Diarrhoea can be more risky for children, elder people, and people with a weakened immune system.

So, these people should be taken to the doctor as soon as they experience the symptoms of diarrhoea. It occurs due to an infection in the gastrointestinal tract caused by parasites, bacteria or viruses.

It can also occur due to contaminated foods and drinks. In rare cases, it can also occur due to a stomach surgery. You should follow good health habits in order to prevent yourself from diarrhoea. Dehydration and malabsorption are the complications associated with diarrhoea.

Probiotics, antibiotics, and rehydration therapy are some of the treatment options available for diarrhoea. In most cases, acute diarrhoea gets cured without any treatment. But the cases of chronic or persistent diarrhoea require proper treatment.

Diarrhoea can be temporary, mild, or life-threatening. Acute diarrhoea ends in one or two days and chronic diarrhoea takes at least four weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) What is diarrhea?

Ans: Diarrhea is an increase in the bowel movements that causes abdominal fluidity and frequency of fecal evacuations. A person is suffering with Diarrhea if they have stools more than 3 times in a day. This condition causes abnormal fluidity and frequency of fecal evacuation increases. The body fluids and salts are lost from the body. The recurrence of bowel movements and looseness of stools vary in different people.

2) What are the symptoms or signs of diarrhea?

Ans: Some of the common symptoms of diarrhea are:

1. Cramps or pain in the abdomen

2. Frequent use of toilet

3. No bowel control

If the disease is caused by a virus or bacteria, one may experience fever, blood in stools and chills.
It can cause dehydration, the body experiences loss of fluid. Dehydration can be dangerous, especially for children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

3) What are the causes of diarrhea?

Ans: One may experience diarrhea due to a number of conditions. Some of the causes of diarrhea are:

-  Intolerance to specific food items, such as lactose intolerance

-  Food allergy

-  An adverse reaction to a medication

-  Viral infection

-  Bacterial infection

-  An intestinal disease

-  Parasitic infection

-  Gallbladder or stomach surgery

4) How is diarrhea diagnosed?

Ans: To find the cause of diarrhea, your doctors may:

-  Perform a physical exam

-  Ask about your current medications

-  Test your stool or blood to diagnose for bacteria or other signs of disease or infection

-  Ask patients to stop eating certain foods to cure diarrhea

In case of chronic diarrhea, your doctor may perform other tests to look for signs of disease.

5) How is diarrhea prevented?

Ans: There are two types of diarrhea that can be prevented - rotavirus diarrhea and traveler's diarrhea. The former can be cured by vaccines that are given to babies in two or three doses.

Traveler’s diarrhea can be prevented if you take proper care of your diet. This can be done by taking precautions in the following manner:

-  Use only bottled or purified water for drinking, making ice cubes, and brushing your teeth

-  If you use tap water, first boil it or use iodine tablets

-  Make sure that the meal you eat is fully cooked and served hot

-  Do not take unwashed raw fruits and vegetables

6) How is diarrhea treated?

Ans: This condition can be treated by the replacement of lost fluids and electrolytes to avoid dehydration. One should drink water or sports drinks. Adults suffering from diarrhea should lower the intake of sodas and salts. As the condition improves, they can eat bland food.  In case of children, they should be given oral rehydration to replace the loss of fluids and electrolytes.

7) What are the complications that are associated with diarrhea?

Ans: The most troublesome thing of diarrhea is dehydration, which happens when there is more loss of fluid than you take in. In such condition, the body doesn’t have enough water and fluids to carry out its normal functions.

Anyone can get dehydrated, but it is more dangerous in young children and people with weakened immune symptoms.

Signs of dehydration include:

-  Thirst

-  Urinating less frequently than normal

-  Dry mouth and tongue

-  Tiredness

-  Sunken eyes or cheeks

-  Light-headedness

Dehydration can vary from one person to another; it can be mild, moderate and even severe. In serious condition, it puts stress on heart and lungs that may lead to shock, that can be dangerous.

8) Does diarrhea causes weight loss?

Ans: One can experience weight loss in case of chronic diarrhea, even without following diet or increased physical activity. Because diarrhea reduces the calories and nutrients the body absorbs from food. Sometimes, stress can also lead to chronic diarrhea and weight loss. If one overlooks different conditions that interfere with digestion and absorption. Inflammatory bowel disease is one of the possible reasons of diarrhea and weight loss.

9) Can ulcers cause diarrhea?

Ans: No, not always. But diarrhea can happen before the symptoms of ulcer occur. This medical condition can happen to patients suffering with Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome, a disease in which tumors develop in the pancreas or duodenum.

10) Can a breastfed baby get affected by diarrhea?

Ans: Due to bacterial infections and elements present in the mother’s body that can cause allergy, a breastfed baby can easily get affected with diarrhea. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of diarrhea than formula-fed babies because of the presence of antibodies.

11) Does taking birth control pills cause diarrhea in women?

Ans: Birth control pills can activate diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. These pills can increase the risk for Crohn’s disease that causes abdominal pain, weight loss and malnutrition.

12) Is diarrhea dangerous?

Ans: In diarrhea, the body tends to lose a lot of water and salts. If the water and salts are not replaced fast, the body starts dehydrating. Severe dehydration can cause death. Diarrhoea causes a person to lose both water and electrolytes. If vomiting accompanies the diarrhoea then these losses are increased. This is more common among children. In this condition, the child becomes irritable having a dry mouth. Its mother may notice that the child is passing urine less frequently, and while crying there may be no tears. Also, the eyes sink down into the orbits and the pulse becomes rapid and weak. By this stage, all internal organs are suffering. Death happens when 10 to 15% of the total body weight is lost. In severe diarrhea, such as that caused by cholera, may take few hours for the body to lose salts and water.

13) What are the clinical types of diarrheal disease?

Ans: It is suggested to base treatment of diarrhoea on the clinical type of the illness, which can be determined when a child is first diagnosed with it. Four clinical types of diarrhoea can be recognized, each reflecting the basic underlying pathology and altered physiology, they are: Acute watery diarrhea (also called cholera) which lasts for several hours or days: the main danger is dehydration; weight loss also occurs if feeding is not continued; acute bloody diarrhoea (also called dysentery):the main issues are intestinal damage, sepsis and malnutrition; other complications, including dehydration, may also occur; persistent diarrhea (which lasts 14 days or longer): it causes malnutrition and serious non-intestinal infection; dehydration can also occur; · diarrhea with severe malnutrition ; the main dangers are: severe systemic infection, dehydration, heart failure and vitamin and deficiency. The treatment of each type of diarrhoea should prevent the main danger(s).

14) What is rotavirus?

Ans: Rotavirus is a contagious virus that infects nearly all children by the time they turn 5. It causes fever, vomiting as well as diarrhea. Rotavirus is not the only cause of severe diarrhea, but it is one of the most common and serious forms of diarrhea. While many cases are mild, others can be severe, leading to dehydration. Children are prone to rotavirus disease between November and May, depending on the part of the country they are living in.

15) What type of food items should be taken during diarrhea?

Ans: High energy foods such as fats, yogurt and cereals can be consumed during diarrhea. The child should be fed with energy-rich foods in small quantities. Some vegetable oil can be added to foods such as millet or rice to increase the energy.
Food items rich in potassium content are required to restore essential stores that are drained during diarrhea. Such foods include lentils, bananas, mangoes, and citrus fruits. Try reducing the intake of fiber food like coarse fruits and vegetables and spicy foods.

16) Why do women are prone to diarrhea during their menstruation period?

Ans: Women can get infected with diarrhea during their periods because of hormone-like substances called prostaglandin that cause the uterine muscles to contract and cramp. Once the prostaglandins are move into the bloodstream, they affect smooth muscles and those in the colon, and cause diarrhea.

17) Can diarrhea lead to hemorrhoids?

Ans: Chronic diarrhea can increase the risk for hemorrhoids. As passing stools and spending more time in the toilet can increase pressure and prompt veins around the anus, especially in the lower rectum, to swell. This causes immense pain and discomfort.

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Last updated on : 29-10-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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