Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of medical conditions and diseases. The more common ones include viruses like viral hepatitis and Norwalk virus, bacteria or parasites, medications, lactose intolerance or digestive disorders. Diarrhea can also be caused by high amounts of fructose in your diet, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, taking laxatives with magnesium, artificial sweeteners, abusing alcohol, having hyperthyroidism or radiation therapy, or following abdominal surgery or gallbladder removal surgery. If you have the stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis, you might have diarrhea for several days. Severe diarrhea is often caused by viruses including the rotavirus, adenovirus, or the Giardia lamblia parasite.
There are two categories of symptoms for diarrhea; complicated and uncomplicated, or acute diarrhea. With uncomplicated symptoms, they are signs that are not serious even though they can often be uncomfortable. Uncomplicated signs and symptoms of diarrhea include abdominal cramping, abdominal bloating, thin or loose stools, watery stools, a sense of urgency to make a bowel movement, nausea and/or vomiting. With complicated diarrhea, which needs medical treatment because it is more severe, you may have all these symptoms plus fever, blood or mucus in your stool and weight loss.
If you have a fever, blood in your stool or diarrhea for more than 24 hours, call your doctor. You should also see your doctor if you have unexplained weight loss and diarrhea, signs of dehydration or black stools. In your baby, consult your doctor if they have a fever over 102, no wet diapers for three or more hours, black or bloody stools, dry mouth or crying without tears or sunken eyes as these are signs of dehydration. To diagnose diarrhea, your doctor will perform a physical exam, listen to your abdomen with a stethoscope, review the medications youre currently taking, do a blood test and a stool test. Additional tests may be performed if your doctor thinks the diarrhea is a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Many cases of diarrhea are not serious and will go away on their own. However, if you have had diarrhea for more than 2-3 days or you experience other symptoms like nausea and vomiting, weight loss or fever, you should consult your doctor. Treatment for diarrhea usually includes antibiotics to get rid of the parasites or bacteria that caused the diarrhea, replacing fluids as diarrhea in its severe form can cause you to become dehydrated, adjusting your current medications and treating other medical conditions that might be leading to the diarrhea such as inflammatory bowel disease. To treat diarrhea at home, drink plenty of fluids and learn what foods trigger the diarrhea so you can avoid them. If you have a very small amount of urine output, a rapid heart rate, headaches, dry skin, confusion, high fever or irritability along with diarrhea, get emergency medical attention.