Causes & Treatment for Diarrhea
What is acute diarrhea?
One of the most common illnesses to affect people in the U.S., acute diarrhea is characterized by an increased amount of bowel movements or stools, which are typically looser and accompanied by abdominal pain, gas, and/or bloating. Unfortunately, while acute diarrhea itself is often mild, it can also lead to extreme dehydration and lowered electrolytes.
What causes acute diarrhea?
Diarrhea is typically a side effect of a viral infection in the gastrointestinal tract, otherwise known as viral gastroenteritis. In addition, the following can also cause diarrhea:
- Dietic foods
- Gum/mints high in sugar
- Bacterial infections
- E. coli infections due to contaminated foods
How is acute diarrhea diagnosed?
When diarrhea symptoms are mild, the problem will usually resolve on its own in a short period of time. In more severe cases, it may be necessary to undergo a parasite exam or stool culture exam in order to determine if an underlying infection is present.
How is acute diarrhea treated?
When symptoms are mild, diarrhea usually goes away on its own without causing you too much discomfort. The most important thing to do when you experience acute diarrhea is to make sure you drink water. You should avoid milk and other dairy items, as they sometimes aggravate diarrhea symptoms. The best things to eat after diarrhea are soups and/or broths, followed by fiber-rich meals.
When symptoms are more severe, there are certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs that reduce symptoms. However, these kinds of drugs should not be used when diarrhea is also accompanied by a fever or bloody stools. When these symptoms occur, consult a physician, who will likely recommend antibiotics.
What is chronic diarrhea?
Diarrhea that occurs multiple times throughout the course of a couple weeks, it is usually referred to as chronic diarrhea. This kind of problem is generally a side effect of an underlying condition, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
What causes chronic diarrhea?
Chronic diarrhea may be caused by any of the following:
- Chronic pancreatitis, caused by:
- Alcohol abuse
- Hereditary pancreatitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pancreas trauma
- Pancreatic cancer
- Bacterial overgrowth
- Obstruction of the biliary tract
- Cholestatic liver disease
- Celiac disease
How is chronic diarrhea diagnosed?
Usually, chronic diarrhea is an indication of an underlying condition. Therefore, your doctor will likely need to conduct some diagnostic testing to rule out conditions and make an accurate diagnosis. The following tests may be used to help diagnose your health condition:
- Blood tests
- Stool tests
- While blood cell test
- Bacteria/parasite studies
- Ultrasound or CT scan of the abdomen
How is chronic diarrhea treated?
Depending on the underlying condition, you may be treated using a number of various options. Your symptoms may be treated using conservative options recommended by your doctor while testing is done to determine the underlying cause. Speak with a certified gastroenterologist to determine the next steps for you.