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Understanding Diarrhea, Common Causes and Treatment Options

Updated on March 4, 2012

Most of us if not all, have suffered diarrhea a couple of times in our lives. For some it would stop right away but for some, it would be that persistent or even with great volume that a hospital consult or an admission is necessary. For some it would be cause by something they have eaten and for some it would be some specific pathogen or some intestinal abnormality. But how well do we know about the common diarrhea. Diarrhea is commonly defined as passage of abnormally liquid or unformed stools at an increased frequency. Medically, its defined as passage of stools of >200g/d and is classified into acute (<2 weeks), sub-acute (2-4 weeks) and chronic (>4 weeks). The burden of this disease is so huge that in the United States alone, it costs million of dollars in direct medical cost. So the question is who among us are prone to having diarrhea. The high risk groups for having diarrhea are travelers, consumers of certain foods, people who are immunocompromised, daycare people, and institutionalized individuals. If you're one who belongs to the above group you should be on the look out for having diarrhea.

Common Causes

Infections by a certain pathogen accounts for most cases of diarrhea. A certain pathogen can be identified in most cases of diarrhea presenting in a treatment facility. Infectious causes usually include different viruses, different bacterias and some protozoans. Virus pathogens include adenoviruses, rotaviruses, astroviruses, and calciviruses. Bacterial pathogens include Salmonella species, Campylobacter, Shigella, E. Coli, Clostridium Difficile and many more. Protozoan pathogens include Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Cyclospora, E histolytica and some more. Symptoms would usually depend on the infecting pathogen, some would present with bloody diarrhea, and some would present with watery and voluminous diarrhea. It could also be associated with crampy abdominal pain, fever, body malaise and some have vomiting episodes.


The hallmark for the treatment of your common diarrhea is hydration. Since a lot of volume is lost through bowel movement, replacement with volume is recommended in all forms of diarrhea. Oral rehydration salt is recommended to replace lost electrolytes at the same time volume. Since infectious causes are the most common etiology of diarrhea, antibiotics also play a role in the treament of diarrhea. An empiric antibiotic can be given if that suspected cause of the diarrhea is an infectious one. It could usually help shorted the length of diarrhea and a faster recovery. Anti-motility agents can also be given to decrease the number of bowel movements at the same time conserve water volume. They can also be given as pain-relief medications for those crampy abdominal pains associated with diarrhea. For some, diarrhea can be treated at home but some patients would need a hospital admission for iv hydration and hospital care. Diarrhea is not easy after all.


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    • jhunpaler profile image

      jhunpaler 6 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for the comment,i kinda laugh at the gross part.. :)

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Interesting although a bit However, informative nevertheless