Diarrhea is the condition when individuals pass loose, watery stools for three or more times in a day. The acute form usually resolves itself within a few days but when it prolongs after a couple of days, it can be an indication of a serious problems such as persistent infection, an inflammatory disorder or irritable bowel syndrome. The chronic form of diarrhea is considered to be a symptom of a chronic disease that can last for at least 4 weeks. The loose stool can result in the body lacking sufficient amount of fluid and electrolyte such as sodium, potassium and chloride. Hence, it is essential to replace the lost fluid to prevent dehydration particularly among the children and the elderly.
Bacterial infections can occur by consuming contaminated food or water. Some of the common bacterial infections include salmonella, shigella and campylobacter. The rotavirus is one of the common viral infections that causes diarrhea that usually resolves within 7 days but can continue to cause a problem with digesting lactose. Food intolerance can also develop diarrhea by the consumption of lactose that is present in milk products. Certain types of medications and treatments can develop reaction by destroying both the good and harmful bacteria in the gut and creating a natural imbalance. Some of the digestive disorders that cause diarrhea includes celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
The common symptoms of diarrhea include abdominal pain, cramps, loose / watery stools, nausea, blood in the stool, fever and urgent need to have a bowel movement. It is important to visit the physician particularly with the presence of blood in the stool, dehydration, high fever and diarrhea that continues for more than two days. An indication of dehydration in adults can include dark-colored urine, excessive thirst, dry mouth, not urinating and fatigue. Some of the signs of dehydration in children and infants include dry diaper for more than 3 hours, high fever, crying without tears and sunken eyes.
Acute diarrhea usually does not require any tests but the chronic condition presenting symptoms such as bloody stools accompanied with fever requires tests to determine the cause. Some of the diagnostic tests for diarrhea include a physical examination to determine signs of any illness, blood tests to rule out other possible causes, fasting test to verify if food intolerance or allergy can be the cause and stool culture to identify the presence of microbes.
In most cases, diarrhea is treated by replacing the lost fluids to prevent dehydration. Yoghurt with live bacteria can benefit the individual with quick recovery. A diet that can aggravate diarrhea should be avoided that includes caffeine and sweet food. It is generally advised that soft bland food such as plain rice and banana should be included in the diet.
Depending on the cause, medications may be prescribed to treat the infection and to stop diarrhea. In the case diarrhea is caused by a serious condition such as inflammatory bowel disease, the individual may be referred to a specialist who will devise the appropriate treatment plan.