Diarrhea: Types, Causes, Complications & Treatment

The majority of people get diarrhea a few times a year. You’ll have loose, watery stools if you have diarrhea. Most of the time, there is no recognized cause, and it resolves on its own after a few days. Bacteria may be the cause of diarrhea. A hazardous side effect of diarrhea is dehydration.


Define diarrhea.

Whatever you name it—going to the bathroom, having a bowel movement, pooping—stool is a normal part of your existence. This method of eliminating waste from your body might, however, occasionally change. Diarrhea is characterized by loose or watery stools. This is a relatively common ailment, and it typically goes away on its own.

There are many different causes of diarrhea, and it typically goes away on its own in one to three days. When you have diarrhea, you can feel the urge to use the restroom immediately and more frequently than usual. Additionally, you can feel bloated, get cramps in your lower abdomen, and occasionally feel queasy.

Although the majority of episodes of diarrhea are self-limited (lasting a specific amount of time and progressing at a constant rate of severity), it can occasionally cause life-threatening consequences. Dehydration (when your body loses a lot of water), electrolyte imbalance (loss of sodium, potassium, and magnesium), and renal failure (not enough blood or fluid is delivered to the kidneys) are all effects of diarrhea. Along with excrement, diarrhea causes the loss of electrolytes and water. To replenish the lost fluids, you must consume enough liquids. If dehydration does not improve, worsens, or is not properly treated, it may become dangerous.

symptoms and cause

What’s the difference between normal diarrhea and severe diarrhea?

Diarrhea can actually be categorized in a number of different ways. These kinds of diarrhea consist of:

Acute diarrhea: The most typical type of acute diarrhea lasts one to two days and is loose, watery, and uncomfortable. This kind normally goes gone within a few days and doesn’t require treatment.

Consistent diarrhea: This kind of diarrhea typically lasts between two and four weeks.

Diarrhea that lasts longer than four weeks or recurs frequently over an extended period of time is referred to as chronic diarrhea.

Who can suffer diarrhea?

Diarrhea can affect anyone. Many people get diarrhea on multiple occasions each year. It’s pretty typical and typically not a big deal for most folks.

diarrhea symptoms

Diarrhea, however, can be extremely dangerous for some populations, including:

  1. Young children.
  2. Older people (the elderly).
  3. Those who suffer from illnesses.
  4. Diarrhea can result in additional health issues for each of these persons.
  5. Can having diarrhea make you sick?

Diarrhea typically self-limits and cures on its own without treatment. You run the danger of consequences if your diarrhea does not get better and clear up entirely (dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and kidney failure and organ damage).

If you develop signs of dehydration or have diarrhea that doesn’t get better or go away, contact your doctor right away. These signs may manifest as:

Small volumes of dark urine and decreased or stopped urine output

  1. Quick heartbeat.
  2. Dry, flushed skin.
  3. Irritability and perplexity
  4. Dizziness and lightheadedness

The inability to tolerate or keep anything down by mouth due to severe nausea and vomiting.



What brings on diarrhea?

Most self-limited diarrheal diseases have an unknown source. Viral gastroenteritis, the most typical cause of diarrhea, is an infection of the colon by a virus. The illness, which occasionally goes by the name “intestinal flu,” lasts a few days in most cases.

Diarrhea might have several potential causes, such as:

  • The presence of bacteria.
  • Parasitic infections and poisons that have already been generated
  • Consuming food that disturbs digestion.
  • Specific food allergies and intolerances (Celiac disease or lactose intolerance).
  • Radiation treatment
  • Food malabsorption (poor absorption).

Can taking antibiotics make you sick?

The majority of antibiotics, including erythromycins, clindamycin, and wide spectrum antibiotics, can make you sick. Antibiotics may alter the usual balance of bacteria in the intestines, promoting the growth of some bacteria, including C. difficult. When this occurs, harmful (pathologic) bacteria that cause colitis may take over your colon (inflammation of your colon lining).


Diarrhea brought on by antibiotics might start at any moment during treatment or soon after. Call your healthcare practitioner if you have this side effect to discuss the diarrhea and the best way to deal with it.

What symptoms do you have of diarrhea?

Depending on how severe or light your diarrhea is, as well as its underlying cause, you may suffer a variety of symptoms. A medical problem that needs to be treated is connected to severe instances of diarrhea.

You might encounter some or all of these signs and symptoms when you have diarrhea. The primary sign of diarrhea is watery or loose stools.

These are some other signs of mild diarrhea:

  1. Abdominal bloating or cramping
  2. A great want to go to the bathroom right away.
  3. Nausea (upset stomach).
  4. When you have severe diarrhea, you could exhibit the following signs:
  5. Loss of weight.
  6. Extreme pain

Several serious problems might arise from severe diarrhea. Call your healthcare practitioner and get help if you experience these symptoms.


Should I be concerned if my diarrhea is a certain color?

Your stool (poop) can be any hue. The color of the food you eat can have an impact on the color of your stool. Typically, you shouldn’t be concerned about this. However, if you ever notice red (blood) in your stool or experience a black bowel movement, it may indicate a more serious condition. Observe any bowel movements that:

  • Are tarry and dark.
  • Contain pus or blood.
  • Despite eating non-fatty meals, are continually greasy or oily.
  • Have a very bad odor.
  • How is diarrhea diagnosed?


Most episodes of mild diarrhea won’t require medical intervention. These conditions are self-limited (only last for a specific period of time) and get better on their own. Keep hydrated and consume a bland meal as supportive therapy for mild diarrhea.

Diarrhea that is more severe can need medical treatment. Your doctor might prescribe a few diagnostic tests in these circumstances. These tests might be:

Talking about your extensive family history, physical and medical issues, travel experiences, and any possible interactions with illness.

Performing a stool test on a sample of collected stool to look for inflammatory, parasitic, bacterial, and blood indicators.

Checking for bacterial overgrowth and lactose or fructose intolerance using a breath test.

Obtaining blood tests to rule out possible medical reasons of diarrhea, such as pancreatic, thyroid, and celiac diseases.

To rule out organic abnormalities, you should perform endoscopic examinations of your upper and lower digestive tracts (ulcers, infections, neoplastic process).


What is the remedy for diarrhea?

The majority of the time, diarrhea that is light and simple can be treated at home. You’ll typically feel better fairly quickly if you use an over-the-counter medication like bismuth subsalicylate.

Over-the-counter drugs aren’t always the answer, though. You must seek medical attention for treatment if an infection or parasite is the cause of your diarrhea. In general, if you also have a fever or blood in your stool, you shouldn’t take over-the-counter drugs for diarrhea. Call your healthcare provider in those situations.

Your doctor will treat you for the underlying cause if your diarrhea lasts for a long time (a few weeks). This could entail a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as:

Antibiotics: To treat an infection or parasite that is causing diarrhea, your doctor may recommend an antibiotic or other medication.


Medication for a specific condition: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis, or bacterial overgrowth are just a few of the illnesses that diarrhea can indicate. Diarrhea is typically under control after the reason has been found.

Probiotics: Composed of collections of beneficial bacteria, probiotics are occasionally used to treat diarrhea by re-establishing a healthy biome. In some circumstances, adding probiotics can be beneficial, and some medical professionals believe it’s worthwhile to give it a shot. Before beginning to use a probiotic or any other form of supplement, always see your doctor.

How should I administer over-the-counter diarrhea medications?

When taking an OTC diarrhea medicine, it’s crucial to strictly adhere to the directions on the container. Adults must follow different guidelines than kids when it comes to treating diarrhea. Before giving your child any form of medication for diarrhea, always give your child’s doctor a call.

administer over-the-counter diarrhea medications

The following is advice for treating diarrhea in an adult with over-the-counter medicine:

Is it possible to treat diarrhea without using medication?

Often, you can treat an acute case of diarrhea yourself without the need of medication. You can take care of diarrhea in a number of ways, including:

Consuming a lot of water as well as other electrolyte-balanced liquids (such as broths, diluted and pulp-free fruit juices, Gatorade sports drinks, and caffeine-free sodas). Keep yourself hydrated all day long. When you have diarrhea, your body loses water. You can prevent dehydration in your body by consuming a lot of extra water.


Making dietary changes. Choose the BRAT diet instead of fried, oily, or greasy foods:

B: Bananas.

R: Rice (white rice).

A: Applesauce.

T: Toast (white bread).

Reducing caffeine consumption. Caffeine-containing foods and beverages may have a minor laxative effect, which may exacerbate your diarrhea. Caffeine-containing foods and beverages include coffee, diet sodas, strong tea and green tea, as well as chocolate.

Avoiding things that make you feel bloated. Reduce your intake of substances that make you gassy if you have diarrhea and stomach cramps. Beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beer, and carbonated beverages are a few examples.

You may occasionally become lactose intolerant as a result of diarrhea. You should avoid lactose-containing foods (dairy products), which are typically transitory until your diarrhea stops.

What meals can help my diarrhea go better?

In fact, altering your diet can assist with diarrhea. Some low-fiber foods can aid in solidifying your stools.


Consider including these foods in your diet if you have diarrhea:

  • Rice (white).
  • White bread.
  • A skinless chicken or turkey.

Call your healthcare practitioner if your child develops severe diarrhea. Compared to adults, young children are more susceptible to dehydration. Additionally, you cannot handle a bout of diarrhea in a youngster the same way you would an adult. Young children should not take over-the-counter drugs since they can be hazardous, and all pediatric treatments for diarrhea should be recommended by a healthcare professional. Your child needs to be kept hydrated. The optimal approach will be determined with assistance from your provider, but common choices include:

  • Mother’s milk.
  • Electrolyte beverages for older children; not for infants.

As a child gets older, the greatest option for keeping them hydrated may change. Before giving your child a new beverage or therapy of any type, make sure to consult your doctor.

Call your provider if you have any concerns or questions concerning your child’s diarrhea.

How can I ease the agony that diarrhea has produced in my lower rectal area?

A lot of times, diarrhea necessitates repeated bathroom visits. Uncomfortable effects like:

  1. Having bowel movements that hurt.

There are a few things you can do to alleviate any of these discomforts, including:

  1. Sitting in a bathtub filled with a few inches of warm water.
  2. Following a bath or shower, pat your lower abdomen dry with a fresh, soft towel. Avoid rubbing the area dry because doing so will only exacerbate the inflammation.
  3. Applying hemorrhoid cream or petroleum jelly to your anus.



Can you stop diarrhea?

There are a few methods you can do to lessen your risk of getting diarrhea, such as:

Keeping yourself clean will help you stay healthy: The most effective technique to stop diarrhea is to wash your hands with soap and water after using the restroom and before cooking, handling, and eating. Washing your hands thoroughly can make a significant difference in the health of both you and others around you.

Getting your vaccinations: The rotavirus vaccine can stop rotavirus, one of the causes of diarrhea. Throughout their first year of life, babies receive this at various intervals.

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Storing food properly: You may prevent diarrhea by keeping your food at the proper temperatures, avoiding spoiled food, preparing food to the recommended temperature, and handling all foods carefully.

When traveling, be careful what you drink because drinking untreated water or other beverages might cause traveler diarrhea. The likelihood of this occurring is highest in emerging nations. There are certain guidelines to follow in order to avoid experiencing diarrhea. Observe what you consume. Never consume unpasteurized milk, milk products, or juices, use tap water to make ice cubes, wash your hands with tap water, or brush your teeth with it. Attempting local cuisine from street vendors, consuming raw or undercooked meats (including seafood), as well as eating raw fruits and vegetables, should all be done with caution? Drink bottled water or something that has been previously boiled if you’re unsure (coffee or tea).


Diarrhea is fatal?

Even while diarrhea is so common, it can still be harmful. You can become extremely dehydrated when you have severe diarrhea, which can have dangerous consequences. One of the most harmful adverse effects of diarrhea is dehydration. This can have negative effects on the extremely young (infants and young children) and the very old. When you have diarrhea, it’s crucial to consume lots of fluids containing electrolytes. This enables your body to replenish the electrolytes and fluids lost due to diarrhea.


Due to dehydration and electrolyte loss, diarrhea can be fatal in various regions of the world.


If I have diarrhea, when should I call my doctor?

Diarrhea that doesn’t get better or doesn’t go away entirely requires a call to your doctor. Keep a close eye out for any additional symptoms you may be having, such as fever, vomiting, rash, weakness, numbness, lightheadedness, disorientation, weight loss, and blood in your stool. It’s best to phone your healthcare physician if you have any worries.

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