Diarrhea

Abdomen | Gastroenterology | Diarrhea (Symptom)


Description

Diarrhea represents the frequent passage of loose, watery stools. The stool may also contain mucus, pus, blood, or excessive amounts of fat. Diarrhea is usually a symptom of some underlying disorder. Conditions in which diarrhea is an important symptom are dysenteric disorders, malabsorbtion syndrome, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, GI tumours, and inflammatory bowel disease. In addition to stool frequency, patients may complain of abdominal cramps and generalized weakness.

Diarrhea generally is divided into two types, acute and chronic. Acute diarrhea lasts from a few days up to a week. Chronic diarrhea can be defined in several ways but almost always lasts more than three weeks. The following are the most common symptoms of diarrhea. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Causes

Diarrhea may be acute (short-term), which is usually related to bacterial or viral infections, or chronic (long-term), which is usually related to a functional disorder or intestinal disease. Although usually not harmful, diarrhea can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Symptoms may include: cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, urgent need to use the restroom, fever, bloody stools, dehydration, and incontinence. Dehydration is one of the more serious side effects of diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration include: thirst, less-frequent urination, dry skin and mucous membranes (dry mouth, nostrils), fatigue, light-headedness, headaches, increased heart rate, depressed fontanelle (soft spot) on infants head. The symptoms of diarrhea may resemble other medical conditions or problems.

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