42 N Breiel BlvdMiddletown, OH 45042
M–Th: 9am to 5pmFri: 9am to Noon
Diarrhea is loose watery stools occurring more than three times in one day. It is a common problem that is usually short-lived and goes away on its own without any special treatment. However, prolonged diarrhea can be a sign of other problems.
People of all ages can get diarrhea. The average adult has a bout of diarrhea about four times a year.
Diarrhea is characterized by loose watery stools. It may be accompanied by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and/or an urgent need to use the bathroom. Depending on the cause, a person may have a fever or bloody stools.
Diarrhea can be acute or chronic. The acute form lasts less than three weeks and is usually related to a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection. Chronic diarrhea lasts for more than three weeks and is usually related to functional disorders or diseases. Examples of functional disorders and diseases include irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
Although usually not harmful, diarrhea can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. You should see a doctor if your diarrhea lasts longer than three days, you have severe pain in the abdomen or rectum, you have a fever, you see blood in your stool or have black tarry stools, or if you have signs of dehydration.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which means the body lacks enough fluid to function properly. Dehydration is particularly dangerous in children and the elderly, and it must be treated promptly to avoid serious health problems.
General signs of dehydration include thirst, less frequent urination, dry skin, fatigue and light-headedness.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Acute diarrhea is usually caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. Several types of bacteria, which usually enter the body through food or water, can cause diarrhea. Examples of these troublesome bacteria are Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella and Escherichia coli. Many viruses can cause diarrhea, including rotavirus, Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus and viral hepatitis. Parasites can enter the body through contaminated food or water and settle in the digestive system. Parasites that cause diarrhea include Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytic and Cryptosporidium.
Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites. Traveler’s diarrhea is a particular problem for people visiting developing countries. Traveler’s diarrhea can be prevented by avoiding the consumption of tap water (even when brushing teeth), ice, unpasteurized milk, raw fruits and vegetables, raw or rare meat and fish and food from street vendors. Bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and coffee and tea are generally safe to consume when traveling abroad.
Chronic diarrhea is usually caused by a functional disorder or disease. Irritable bowel syndrome prevents the intestines from working normally and can cause diarrhea. Diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease also cause diarrhea. An intolerance to certain foods can cause diarrhea. A common example of this is lactose intolerance. Reactions to some medicines, such as antibiotics and blood pressure medicines can also cause diarrhea.
Some people develop diarrhea after stomach surgery or removal of the gallbladder. Such surgeries can cause a change in how quickly food moves through the digestive system, or cause an increase in bile in the colon, resulting in diarrhea.
In many causes, the cause of diarrhea cannot be found. As long as diarrhea goes away on its own, an extensive search for the cause is not usually necessary.
Diagnostic testing can be done to determine the cause of diarrhea. The doctor will ask a series of questions about your medical history, eating habits and medication usage. A physical exam will be performed to look for signs of illness. A stool culture may be taken to check for evidence of bacteria, parasites or other signs of infection. Blood tests are sometimes done. If a food allergy or intolerance is suspected, the doctor may ask you to eliminate certain foods from your diet, such as lactose or wheat, to see if the diarrhea improves. A colonoscopy is also sometimes indicated to look for evidence of infection, disease or functional disorders.
In most cases, taking steps to prevent dehydration is the only treatment needed for diarrhea. Although water is extremely important in preventing dehydration, it is also necessary to replace electrolytes lost from diarrhea. To maintain electrolyte levels, chicken broth, beef broth, fruit, cola, and sports drinks are recommended.
Medicines that stop the diarrhea may be prescribed in some cases. When diarrhea is found to be caused by a bacterial infection or parasites, doctors usually prescribe antibiotics. Depending on the severity and type of virus, viral causes of diarrhea can be treated with medicines or left alone to run their course.
Points to Remember
42 N. Breiel Boulevard
Middletown, OH 45042
Tel: (513) 422-0024
Fax: (513) 422-0232
Monday – Thursday: 9 AM to 5 PM
Friday: 9 AM to Noon
Patients are seen in the office on Tuesday and Thursday. Procedures are done on Monday and Wednesday.
This Web site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.