What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is an illness that presents with frequent, loose, and watery stools. Almost every person deals with it at some point. Diarrhea which comes on abruptly and goes away after a few weeks is known as acute diarrhea. This usually gets better on its own. Diarrhea which lasts more than four weeks is considered chronic diarrhea. If this is the case, patients will usually need to see a specialist for treatment.
What causes diarrhea?
Many different things can cause diarrhea:
- Infections: Infections can be passed from person to person or from having contaminated food or water.
- Children who attend day care and their families will typically be more likely to get these types of infections.
- People who travel to foreign nations can get "traveler's diarrhea.”
- Medications: Several medicines can cause diarrhea. The most common include- antacids with magnesium, laxatives, digitalis diuretics, some antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, cholesterol-lowering agents, lithium, theophylline, and thyroid hormones.
- Too much caffeine or alcohol: Cutting back on one or both can help to relieve diarrhea.
- Toxins such as insecticides, psychedelic mushrooms, and arsenic can cause diarrhea.
- A digestive problem including lactose intolerance, celiac disease, or pancreatic issues.
- Surgery that removes part of the small intestine.
- Removal of the gallbladder which can increase of bile in the colon resulting in watery stools.
- Hormonal disorders including adrenal disease, overactive thyroid disease, diabetes, and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
- Certain rare tumors like a carcinoid.
- Inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or microscopic colitis which causes flare-ups.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause both diarrhea and constipation.
- Ischemic bowel disease can be caused by blocked arteries. Symptoms can include abdominal pain with bloody diarrhea.
- Radiation therapy for cancer.
How do I get relief?
If you’ve had diarrhea for 14 days or longer, please make an appointment to see Dr. Connor. If you have blood in the stool, fever, or unexplained weight loss, you should go sooner. Dr. Connor will use your medical history to determine the cause and he may also test your blood or stool. You may be prescribed medication for an underlying condition.