Definition of Diarrhea

The frequent passing of watery stools is termed as diarrhea. It is a Greek word, dia means through and rheo means flow. It is a very common condition and can be fatal at times, especially in children. It usually resolves itself within 2-3 days or may require correction through the use of medicines.

It may be acute or chronic, depending on the duration of diarrhea. Acute diarrhea is lethal in malnourished and babies and is an important cause of death in developing countries. Chronic diarrhea is usually associated with some other syndromes like irritable bowel syndrome.


Cause of Diarrhea

Major causes of diarrhea are:

  • Viral infections (most common)

  • Bacterial infections, like cholera and shigellosis.  

  • Food allergens

  • Certain drugs

  • Radiations therapy.

  • Infection other than bacterial

  • Malabsorption of food

  • Intestinal diseases like crohn’s disease

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Anxiety

  • Gut cancers

  • Overuse of laxatives

  • Gut surgeries

  • Alcohol abuse


Signs and Symptoms of Diarrhea

Diarrhea symptoms vary depending on the duration and severity of diarrhea. Common manifestations of diarrhea are:

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Flatulence

  • Bloating

  • Watery stools

  • Bowel urgency

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Headache and fatigue

  • Blood in stools

  • Weight loss (in chronic condition)

  • Fever


Risk Factors for Diarrhea

Factors that can increase your chance of getting diarrhea include:

  • Having a severely weakened immune system, such as with AIDS or after an organ transplant
  • Traveling to a developing country where the water and food supply may be contaminated
  • Taking certain medications, apart from antibiotics
  • Being so much anxiety
  • Consuming too much alcohol
  • Consuming too much coffee

Diagnosis of Diarrhea

The diagnosis of diarrhea is usually clinical and number of stools (more than 5-6 in 24 hours) can indicate that person is suffering from diarrhea diarrhea. Stool examination, however may be required in serious long lasting bloody diarrhea to determine the actual cause.  


Treatment of Diarrhea

Following measures can be taken to prevent the serious outcomes of diarrhea:

  • Take a lot of fluids: The main damage caused by diarrhea is dehydration. Deaths occurring in diarrhea result from dehydration. In order to survive this complication, supplement with your body with plenty of fluids like water. Avoid the use of caffeinated drinks, carbonated sodas and alcohol.

  • Medications: There are some medications that can help relieve the symptoms.  Drugs such as loperamide are used to slow down the gut motility and to improve the absorption process.

Metronidazole is also given to patient for the removal of foreign microorganisms that may be disturbing the gut flora and mucosa, producing diarrhea.

  • Painkillers: Paracetamol or ibuprofen is used to relieve the associated symptoms like fever, nausea and abdominal pain.