- 15 min15 minutes
- Depends on ConsultDepends on Consult
- Location 1
Diarrhea is frequent loose and watery bowel movements. It can cause you to feel weak and dehydrated. Dehydration can cause you to become tired and thirsty and to have a dry mouth, decreased urination, and dark yellow urine. Diarrhea is a sign of another problem, most often an infection that will not last long. In most cases, diarrhea lasts 2–3 days. Diarrhea that lasts longer than 4 weeks is called long-lasting (chronic) diarrhea. It is important to treat your diarrhea as directed by your health care provider to lessen or prevent future episodes of diarrhea. CAUSES There are many causes of chronic diarrhea. The following are some possible causes: • Gastrointestinal infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. • Food poisoning or food allergies. • Certain medicines, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, and laxatives. • Artificial sweeteners and fructose. • Disorders, such as Celiac disease and Inflammatory bowel diseases. • Irritable bowel syndrome. • Some disorders of the pancreas. • Disorders of the thyroid. • Reduced blood flow to the intestines. • Cancer. Sometimes the cause of chronic diarrhea is unknown. RISK FACTORS • Having a severely weakened immune system, such as from HIV or AIDS. • Taking certain types of cancer-fighting drugs (such as with chemotherapy) or other medicines. • Having had a recent organ transplant. • Having a portion of the stomach or small bowel removed. • Traveling to countries where food and water supplies are often contaminated. SYMPTOMS In addition to frequent, loose stools, diarrhea may cause: • Cramping. • Abdominal pain. • Nausea. • Fever. • Fatigue. • Urgent need to use the bathroom. • Loss of bowel control. DIAGNOSIS Your health care provider must take a careful history and perform a physical exam. Tests given are based on your symptoms and history. Tests may include: • Blood or stool tests. Three or more stool samples may be examined. Stool cultures may be used to test for bacteria or parasites. • A procedure in which a thin tube is inserted into the mouth or rectum (Colonoscopy). This allows the health care provider to look inside the intestine. TREATMENT • Treatment is aimed at correcting the cause of the diarrhea when possible. • Diarrhea caused by an infection can often be treated with antibiotic medicines. • Diarrhea not caused by an infection may require you to take long-term medicine or have surgery. Specific treatment should be discussed with your health care provider.