What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is one of those unpleasant topics that none of us like discuss, but chances are that every adult will have at least one bout with acute diarrhea each year. At a basic level, diarrhea is either an increase in the frequency of bowel movements or a decrease in the form of the stool where it takes on a more liquid state. Medically diarrhea is typically defined as acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea is a change in one’s bowel movements that lasts 1-2 days. Chronic diarrhea occurs when your stools loosen for more than 4 weeks either continually or short cycles.
Most cases of diarrhea will stop on their own. However, in some instances when bouts of diarrhea are persistent it can lead to dehydration or more serious medical issues.
What Causes Diarrhea?
The National Institute of Health notes that acute diarrhea is usually caused by a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. Chronic diarrhea is usually related to a functional disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome or an intestinal disease such as Crohn’s disease.
While there are several factors that can cause diarrhea, a few of the more common causes are:
• Sensitivity to certain foods
• Intestinal disorders (e.g. ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
• Bacterial overgrowth
• Viral infections
• Reactions to medications
• Celiac Disease
When Should I See A Doctor for Diarrhea in Plano TX?
Most cases of diarrhea clear on their own without treatment. However, diarrhea may cause a loss of significant amounts of water and salts, so be aware of signs of dehydration and increase your fluid intake if necessary. Dr. Malik recommends seeing a physician if you experience any of the symptoms below in conjunction with having diarrhea.
• Your diarrhea persists beyond two days
• You show signs of dehydration
• Experiencing severe rectal or abdominal pain
• Bloody or black stools
Treatments for Diarrhea
The major focus of treatment for acute diarrhea is to maintain adequate hydration. This can be done by drinking lots of non-caffeinated, lactose-free drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte, etc. It is best to be on a soft bland diet during this time such as a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). The most common tests for diarrhea are simple blood and stool examination studies. Based on these tests your doctor may initiate treatment with antibiotics or anti-diarrheal agents.
Persistent diarrhea requires evaluation by a gastroenterologist and treatment is based on the results of the medical work-up and the diagnosis. Some tests a Gastroenterologist may perform include blood work and stool studies, x-rays, breath tests, colonoscopy, endoscopy or capsule endoscopy.