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Diarrhea

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Diarrhea is a common condition everyone experiences throughout life. Diarrhea is loose, watery stools. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Typically, diarrhea only lasts a few days; however, it can last for weeks which can be a sign of a serious disorder or disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms of diarrhea include:

  • Frequent, loose, watery stools
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Blood in the stool
  • Bloating

Most diarrhea symptoms clear up in a few days. If diarrhea persists for more than three day, you should check with your doctor. See your doctor immediately if you have diarrhea and experience these symptoms:

  • You become dehydrated — as evidenced by excessive thirst, dry mouth or skin, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness, or dark-colored urine
  • You have severe abdominal or rectal pain
  • You have bloody or black stools
  • You have a temperature of more than 102 F (39 C)

Causes and Risk Factors

When you eat or drink something it passes through your digestive tract where your colon absorbs liquids leaving a semisolid stool. Diarrhea occurs when the food and fluids pass too quickly or in too large an amount — or both — through your colon and the liquid isn’t absorbed resulting in a watery bowel movement.

Common causes of diarrhea include:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Parasites
  • Medications, especially antibiotics
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Fructose in people who have difficulty digesting it
  • Artificial sweeteners

Diarrhea is also a symptom of digestive disorders including Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, microscopic colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Diagnostic Tests

Most cases of diarrhea go away without treatment. But see your doctor if diarrhea persists, if you become dehydrated or if you pass blood in your stool or if you have any symptoms that worry you. Your doctor will start with a complete medical history to determine the frequency and duration of your symptoms.

Your doctor may also perform additional tests to aid in diagnosis including:

  • Physical exam
  • Review of your medications including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and herbal supplements
  • Blood test to check for signs of infection
  • Stool test to check for signs of bacteria or parasites

Treatment and Procedures

If you’ve tried lifestyle modifications and your diarrhea persists for more than three days, your doctor may suggest the following treatments:

Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections or parasites

Fluid replacement which can be as simple as drinking fluids to keep you hydrated or may require intravenous fluid replacement if the dehydration is severe

Adjusting the medications you’re taking that may be causing your diarrhea

To stop diarrhea caused by a more serious disease or chronic condition, your doctor will develop a plan to treat the underlying condition.

Your health is our greatest concern. Please contact the Center for Colon & Rectal Surgery at 407.303.2615for a private consultation today.