What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a condition in which loose and watery stools happen frequently and may be accompanied by abdominal cramps. It typically lasts a few days and disappears without the need for treatment. Diarrhea can be acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea is fairly common and occurs as a result of a viral or bacterial infection, or due to food poisoning. Chronic diarrhea refers to diarrhea that lasts for at least four weeks and may be linked to an intestinal disease or disorder, such as Crohn’s or celiac disease

What are the Causes of Diarrhea?

There are several conditions or circumstances that can cause diarrhea. Many cases are due to a short-term infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Diarrhea that occurs suddenly (acute) may be a result of the following conditions:

  • Antacids with magnesium
  • Antibiotics
  • Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection
  • Food intolerances
  • Fructose intolerance
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Medications for conditions like high blood pressure or cancer

Chronic diarrhea is defined as loose, watery stool that lingers for a period exceeding approximately three weeks and may be a sign of a more serious problem, such as a malabsorption disorder, inflammatory bowel disease, or chronic infection.

What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?

There are many different symptoms of diarrhea, which will vary depending on the cause. You may experience one of these symptoms or any combination of them:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Bloody stools
  • Dehydration
  • A frequent urge to vacate your bowels

Diarrhea can have serious effects on your body if not treated in a timely manner. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the symptoms discussed above, especially if symptoms persist for longer than a week. 

How is Diarrhea Diagnosed?

To determine the cause of your diarrhea, your doctor will usually complete a physical exam and consider your medical history, including any medications you are currently taking and what you’ve had to eat or drink recently. Most cases of diarrhea resolve without medical intervention, however in more severe cases, your doctor may request lab tests to determine the underlying cause. These tests can include: 

How is Diarrhea Treated?

In most cases, the goal of treatment is to simply stop the diarrhea. The key to mild diarrhea is supportive therapy, such as staying hydrated and sticking to a bland diet. In other cases, the underlying cause needs to be determined and managed prior to treatment.

Treatments for diarrhea may include:

  • Adjusting current medications
  • Taking antibiotics to treat bacterial or parasitic infections
  • Fluid and mineral replenishment by mouth or intravenously (IV)

Do not use over-the-counter medications if you have a fever or blood in your stool. Instead, contact your healthcare provider for additional treatment options. 

Digestive Health Specialists in New Jersey

At Digestive Healthcare Center, our gastroenterology specialists diagnose a wide variety of digestive problems, including diarrhea, and provide comprehensive treatment in NJ. Regardless of your individual circumstances, we will ensure that your needs are met to the fullest extent, so you can get back to comfortable living. DHC offers routine health screenings and state-of-the-art procedures, tailored to each gastroenterological condition.  To learn more about the conditions we treat or to schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, please contact us today. 

Comprehensive Gastroenterology Care at Digestive Healthcare Center

Digestive Healthcare Center is proud to serve patients across New Jersey, delivering comprehensive and compassionate care through a wide range of gastroenterology services. We have three office locations in Somerset County, which provide those in the area with convenient access to high-quality care. We also offer virtual telemedicine visits for patient convenience.

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