Diarrhea is a very common condition. It is generally classified as a symptom or an underlying cause of a disease or a disorder. It can range from mild to severe. It can even cause death in chronic situations. Diarrhea is characterized by unusually watery or loose stools. Generally babies who breastfeed pass pasty and loose stool, this should not be confused with symptoms of diarrhea and is completely normal.
Facts about diarrhea:
- It can be chronic, persistent and acute.
- It is caused due to infection by viruses, bacteria and parasites.
- Chronic diarrhea is also called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are major causes of chronic diarrhea.
- Diarrhea is usually diagnosed by testing stool samples of the affected.
- Diarrhea can cause severe dehydration, which is why electrolytes and fluids are given during treatment.
- Zinc supplements and antidiarrheal medications are given to reduce the symptoms of diarrhea.
- Probiotic and nutritional interventions can also be used during diarrhea.
Classification of diarrhea:
- Acute diarrhea- This type of diarrhea lasts between number of days to several hours. It usually lasts less than 14 days. Acute diarrhea includes virus found in cholera. Blood found in acute diarrhea is a sure symptom of dysentery.
- Persistent diarrhea- The diarrhea which lasts more than 2 weeks but less than 4 weeks is called persistent diarrhea.
- Chronic diarrhea- This form of diarrhea is extremely fatal and needs immediate medical attention. Chronic diarrhea occurs when you experience watery stools for more than 4 weeks.
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be caused when there is high mobility of the intestines or when there is acute inflammation of the intestinal walls. Secretory diarrhea occurs from chloride secretions inside the bowels. This leads to a huge loss of fluid. Whereas, osmotic diarrhea is caused when the small intestine fails to absorb soluble compounds, this leads to the water flowing into the gut.
Other causes of diarrhea include:
- Microscopic colitis- This form of diarrhea only affects older people. It is usually persistent at night.
- Malabsorptive diarrhea- It is caused by inadequate nutrient absorption. It can also be caused due to a condition known as celiac disease.
- Drug induced factors- Sometimes consumption of too many laxatives can lead to acute diarrhea.
- Endocrine causes- Disorders such as hyperthyroidism, carcinoid tumors ad Addison disease can result to diarrhea.
- Cancer causes- Neoplastic diarrhea is a symptom of gut cancer.