Diarrhea

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is defined as a loss of the consistency of the feces, or watery stool, or an increase in the frequency of the depositions in a day (more than 3). Some sources say that having a stool that weighs more than 200 grams in a day is considered as diarrhea, but we know it is challenging to measure stool, so keep reading to learn more about this.

The episodes of diarrhea can last from hours up to 14 days and are considered acute. When it lasts more than two weeks, it’s called persistent diarrhea, and if its duration is longer than four weeks, then it is known as chronic.

Causes of diarrhea

Most cases of diarrhea happen due to an infection. This could be from a virus, bacteria, or parasite. These organisms are transmitted from one person to another, by eating contaminated food or drinking non-potable water. More often, this type of diarrhea, or infectious diarrhea, comes with other symptoms such as fever.

The other cause of diarrhea is non-infectious, commonly because of stress, medications, or intoxication. Other causes include systemic diseases such as inflammatory bowel syndrome or hyperthyroidism that because of their pathology generate diarrhea.

Symptoms

Depending on the cause, the symptoms may vary. Besides the typical watery stools or going to the bathroom a lot of times in a day, diarrhea can be accompanied by other things. Fever, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting are some of the most common manifestations.

When the feces are mucousy and bloody, it’s called dysentery, and it’s a sing of more complicated diarrhea that is often caused by organisms like salmonella or shigella.

What’s most important in any scenario is the dehydration that is caused by diarrhea, especially in little kids and older people. If the person is very thirsty or their mouth becomes dry, if he or she is urinating very little or not urinating at all and if there are other sings like increased heart rate or the breathing becomes fast, then they would need immediate medical assessment.

Management

The first thing to take care of when having diarrhea is rehydration and dietary adjustments. What’s recommended is foods low in sugar and fat like soup, bread, juice, and crackers. Also, avoiding dairy products seems to help with the abdominal discomfort, except for yogurt since it contains live active bacteria that help to break down the lactose in milk.

All this should be accompanied by ingesting a lot of liquids, and in some cases, oral rehydration solutions. Nevertheless, always keep in mind having an assessment of a professional could be very beneficial. You would obtain an early response and evaluation in our site at VirtualMD.

Diagnosis

The doctor should always ask for a feces exam and sometimes a complete blood count, but usually, the diagnosis is made by asking the patient’s history thoroughly. The time since the episodes started, what has the person eaten, or just where he or she has been in the past days or weeks is enough to make a diagnosis.

If there is a more complicated case, the exams may include blood electrolytes, stool culture, or others the doctor may consider necessary.

Treatment

Typically, if proven that a virus causes the infection, there is no treatment required. But when there is uncertainty, the doctor may indicate a general antibiotic that can treat the most common microorganisms that cause diarrhea.

If the diarrhea is because of non-infectious disease, then it is a priority to treat the subjacent factor that is producing it.

If you have any doubts or comments on this or any other disease or infection, please feel free to call us at 1-800-594-0537, and a doctor at VirtualMD will be glad to help you.