Diarrhea is when a person has loose and watery stools that occur several times a day. Most often, diarrhea is not serious and most people experience diarrhea only a couple of times a year. The symptoms of diarrhea typically last only two to three days and can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Diarrhea can occur more often in some people and may be diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome.
Causes of Diarrhea
There are several factors that can cause diarrhea, including:
- Alcohol abuse
- Viruses: Viruses such as Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, and viral hepatitis can all contribute to diarrhea
- Food Allergies
- Intestinal Diseases: Examples are Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis
- Bacteria and Parasites: Consuming contaminated food and/or water can transmit bacteria and parasites to the body
- Lactose Intolerance: Many adults lack the enzyme that assists in digesting lactose, which can make it difficult for the body to digest
- Artificial Sweeteners: The artificial sweeteners found in products like chewing gum, sorbitol and mannitol can cause diarrhea in healthy people
- Malabsorption:: Trouble absorbing certain nutrients
Symptoms of Diarrhea
Signs and symptoms may include the following,
- Loose and watery stools
- Bloating in the stomach
- Stomach cramps and/or pain
- An urgent feeling to have a bowel movement
When to Contact a Doctor
Diarrhea in children can quickly lead to dehydration. If the child’s symptoms do not improve within 24 hours, contact a doctor. Adults should contact a doctor if diarrhea symptoms if they experience the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea lasting more than a couple of days
- Severe abdominal pain
- Bloody or black stool
- A fever of greater than 102 F (39 C).
Treatment for Diarrhea in Philadelphia
Staying hydrated is important when suffering from diarrhea. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids such as sports drinks, broth, or flavored water are options as well. If a person is experiencing severe symptoms and visit a doctor, the doctor may try a few tests to determine the cause of diarrhea.
- Blood Test
- Stool Test: A stool test can determine if bacteria or a parasite is causing diarrhea.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy or Colonoscopy: These procedures may be recommended by a doctor to look at the colon’s lining if the doctor cannot find the cause of diarrhea.
For further information on treating diarrhea or if you would like to schedule a consultation or appointment with your physician, contact Philadelphia Gastroenterology at (215) 742-9900.