What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is loose, watery stools that occur three or more times a day.

Diarrhea can be acute, persistent, or chronic. Acute diarrhea lasts only a short period, typically 1-2 days, and then resolves itself. Persistent diarrhea lasts between 2-4 weeks. Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than four weeks and may come and go.

What Causes Diarrhea?

The causes of diarrhea can vary, depending on if it's acute, persistent, or chronic.

Acute and persistent diarrhea can occur from infections (bacterial, parasitic, or viral) or as a result of medication.

Chronic diarrhea can also be caused by infections, but do not go away without treatment. Other causes include food allergies or intolerances, digestive tract problems, medication, or even abdominal surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is characterized by passing loose, watery stools three or more times a day. You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • An urgent need to use the bathroom
  • Cramping
  • Loss of control of bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the abdomen

Diarrhea caused by infections include the following symptoms:

  • Bloody stools
  • Fever and chills
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Vomiting

Please seek medical attention if diarrhea continues beyond a few days. If left untreated, diarrhea can lead to malabsorption and dehydration.

What is the Treatment for Diarrhea?

Treating diarrhea will depend on the cause.

In acute cases, diarrhea typically resolves itself on its own. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms.

If your diarrhea is a symptom of an underlying condition, your treatment may include medication and diet change. If your diarrhea is a symptom of an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or medication.

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