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Diarrhea


What is Diarrhea ?

Diarrhea is recent change in consistency or frequency of stool. Acute diarrhea is less than 14 days in duration. Chronic diarrhea is defined as more 4 weeks in duration.


Causes / Acute:

  • Infection – bacteria, viruses and less often, protozoa
  • Drug induced
  • Chronic

    Irritable bowel syndrome


  • Infection - Some infectious agents may cause prolonged symptoms
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis)
  • Malabsorption syndromes (from conditions such as bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, lactose intolerance or previous surgery of small bowel or colon)
  • Post-cholecystectomy status (removal of the gallbladder)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hyperthyroidism (thyroid dysfunction)
  • Radiation injury to the small bowel or colon
  • Colonic cancer
  • Evaluation

    Requirement of evaluation depends on the duration and severity of diarrhea. Work up may include complete blood count, serum electrolytes, blood sugar, thyroid function tests and/or tests for celiac disease. Stool tests may be required to search for an infectious agent / to characterize type of diarrhea. Occasionally, you may require collecting stools for 3 days in order to indentify atypical infection/fat malabsorption.

    A flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be required, but this depends on age, severity/duration of symptoms.

    Breath tests may be required to diagnose conditions such as bacterial overgrowth and lactose intolerance.

    Treatment


    It depends on the cause of diarrhea. Mild symptoms can manage at home. Moderate to severe symptoms may need medical evaluation and occasionally hospitalization.

    Mild symptoms:

  • To drink plenty of liquids such as water, ORS liquid
  • Avoid caffeine containing beverages
  • Avoid milk
  • If required to take certain prescribed medications (such as antibiotics)
  • Don’t take any anti diarrhea medications (eg. Loperamide) without consulting your doctor
  • You may have BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce and Toast)


  • Moderate to severe symptoms

    (Abdominal pain, fever, bloody stool and symptoms of dehydration).

  • Consult your doctor for further management
  • A Centre for Comprehensive GI Care