Diarrhea is loose, watery stools (bowel movements). You have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts a short time. It is a common problem. It usually lasts about one or two days, but it may last longer. Then it goes away on its own.
Diarrhea lasting more than a few days may be a sign of a more serious problem. Chronic diarrhea -- diarrhea that lasts at least four weeks -- can be a symptom of a chronic disease. Chronic diarrhea symptoms may be continual, or they may come and go.
The most common causes of diarrhea include
Some people also get diarrhea after stomach surgery, because sometimes the surgeries can cause food to move through your digestive system more quickly.
Sometimes no cause can be found. If your diarrhea goes away within a few days, finding the cause is usually not necessary.
People of all ages can get diarrhea. On average, adults In the United States have acute diarrhea once a year. Young children have it an average of twice a year.
People who visit developing countries are at risk for traveler's diarrhea. It is caused by consuming contaminated food or water.
Other possible symptoms of diarrhea include
If a virus or bacteria is the cause of your diarrhea, you may also have a fever, chills, and bloody stools.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which means that your body does not have enough fluid to work properly. Dehydration can be serious, especially for children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Although it is usually not harmful, diarrhea can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. Contact your health care provider if you have
If children have diarrhea, parents or caregivers should not hesitate to call a health care provider. Diarrhea can be especially dangerous in newborns and infants.
To find the cause of diarrhea, your health care provider may
If you have chronic diarrhea, your health care provider may perform other tests to look for signs of disease.
Diarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Depending on the cause of the problem, you may need medicines to stop the diarrhea or treat an infection.
Adults with diarrhea should drink water, fruit juices, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, and salty broths. As your symptoms improve, you can eat soft, bland food.
Children with diarrhea should be given oral rehydration solutions to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
Two types of diarrhea can be prevented - rotavirus diarrhea and traveler's diarrhea. There are vaccines for rotavirus. They are given to babies in two or three doses.
You can help prevent traveler's diarrhea by being careful about what you eat and drink when you are in developing countries:
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases