What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea refers to loose, frequent, watery stools and a feeling that you urgently need to make a bowel movement. Everyone has diarrhea occasionally, however when it is severe and or long-lasting it may indicate an underlying illness.
The following symptoms may accompany diarrhea:
- Bloating in your stomach
- Stomach cramps
- Rectal bleeding
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unintended weight loss
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be a symptom of many different health problems, most of which are related to the gastrointestinal system. Some common causes include:
- Food allergies, lactose intolerance, or celiac disease
- Food poisoning
- Common prescription medications
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Bacterial, viral or parasitic infection
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
- Microscopic colitis
- Overactive thyroid gland
What to do if you have diarrhea.
If the diarrhea is relatively mild and only lasts a day or two, you can generally manage this with over the counter remedies, hydration with electrolyte-rich fluids, and rest
If diarrhea lasts longer than a couple of days, is recurrent, is severe, or occurs in association with fever, bleeding, severe pain, or signs of dehydration, then promptly seek medical attention.
How to know if it’s serious
Most episodes of diarrhea will pass in a day or two. However, the condition can indicate a more serious underlying problem. You should consult a doctor if you have diarrhea for more than two days or also have:
- Signs of dehydration, such as excessive thirst, dry mouth, dark or limited urination, and severe fatigue
- Black or bloody stools
- A fever of 102 degrees or higher
- Pain near your rectum or anus or severe stomach pain
- Recently returned from a foreign country
How we can help
Diarrhea is one of the commonest reasons that patients see a gastroenterologist. When we see patients for diarrhea, we will obtain a careful history in order to elicit clues about the cause. Based on our experience and your, we may initiate treatment right away, or we may ask you to undergo tests – such as blood and stool tests, or imaging studies like CT scanning, or endoscopic testing.
Based on the results of our evaluation we will recommend specific and targeted treatment, and we will work with you until your problem abates. The good news: almost all cases of diarrhea can be successfully resolved.
By: New York Gastroenteroloy
Reviewed by: Laura Frado, MD, MS
Published: Dec 10th, 2020
Last Reviewed: Mar 1st, 2022
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