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Causes and Symptoms of Diarrhea

Updated on November 20, 2015

What is Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a condition of loose or liquid stools more frequently than usual. It is a symptom of many gastrointestinal infections. Diarrhea is a wide spread especially in the developing and poor countries with weak public sanitation system. According to World Health Organization every year more than 4 billion cases of diarrhea occur. Diarrhea is deadly especially in children. It is responsible for 4% of all deaths every year in the World. Annually 2 to 2.5 million mostly children die with the disease. It is responsible for 8.5% of deaths in Southeast Asia and 7.5% deaths in Africa.

Types of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is basically two types;

  • Acute Diarrhea and
  • Chronic Diarrhea.

Acute Diarrhea is a severe form of diarrhea that lasts for 48 to 72 hours. Chronic Diarrhea is the diarrhea that lasts for few weeks or months or sometimes more than a year.

Chronic Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea is a type of diarrhea that lasts for few weeks or months or sometimes more than a year. This type of diarrhea is due to mainly non – pathogenic factors. They are;

  • Excessive consumption of coffee, tea and sweets.
  • Excessive and Chronic alcoholism.
  • Lactose and Wheat gluten Intolerance.
  • Prolonged administration and use of Antibiotics and other drugs.
  • Chronic intestinal inflammation disease called Crotin`s disease as well as chronic pancreatitis.

Acute Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea is a severe form of diarrhea. It lasts for 48 to 72 hours. Acute diarrhea is mostly due to pathogenic infection. This type of diarrhea is caused by many pathogens and hence it is a symptom of many diseases. Below are some of them;

  • Clostridium botulinum – Botulism (Food poisoning)
  • Vibrio Cholera – Cholera
  • Enterotorigenic E.coli – Traveler’s Diarrhea
  • Rota Virus - Infant Diarrhea

Diarrhea is also the major symptom of Bacterial Enterocolitis and Viral gastroenteritis.

Early signs of Diarrhea

Certain early signs characteristic of diarrhea can be identified which include increased thirst excretion of small amounts of dark urine, stomach pain, drowsiness and inability to drink water. Sometimes there may be small amount of blood in the stool.

Immediate Measures that can be taken at Home

There are some measures which can be carried out at home after the initial symptoms that can help in preventing further loss of body fluids and re-hydration of the body.

These measures include consumption of more water preferably with sugar and salt, readily mixed Oral Re-hydration Salts (ORS) and Soups with good amount of salt.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

  • Frequent and Watery stools usually more than 250 ml or more,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Stomach pain,
  • Abdominal cramps and
  • Nausea and vomiting.

These symptoms may be accompanied by fever. Excess loss of the body fluids results in dehydration and is very fatal to very young and old people.

Treatment for Diarrhea

Treatment with antibiotics is rarely needed and even may cause some side effects. Anti - diarrheal agent LOperamide may be used except when there is blood or puss in the stool.

Preventive Measures for Diarrhea

  • The most important preventive measures for any disease to have a Vaccine available. Infants below 6 months should be given Rota Viral Vaccine and in areas where severe Cholera outbreak occur. Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) has to be taken.
  • One has to maintain good health and take hygiene food. Contaminated food and water should be completely avoided.
  • If no type of water filtering Mechanism available then the drinking water should be boiled every time and cooled before use.
  • Regular systemic hand washing should be practiced which include cleaning hands with soap before taking food and after toilet. Children should be partially taught of the same.
  • Consumption of raw milk should be avoided and should be pasteurized before use.
  • Patient should not be allowed to cook and serve food. They generally should be separated for treatment.


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    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 5 years ago from India

      Thank you Rajan for reading and commenting :)

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Useful info on diarrhea and what can be done about it. voted up.