Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

It represents a symptom, which can be defined as frequent stools more than three times a day, of a loose or liquid consistency.

Diarrhea occurs when stool moves so fast that the intestines do not have time to absorb the water needed to “strengthen” the stool.

The acute form lasts less than 14 days, clears up spontaneously, and is usually not serious, but may be associated with other health problems.

Diarrhea in its chronic form can last for more than a month. It can be caused by an inflammatory bowel disorder such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease .

Children and babies with diarrhea should be examined by a doctor immediately for their tendency to dehydration .

Causes

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a condition that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloody stools.

These symptoms occur because the large intestine (colon) has become inflamed and acquired sores, known as “ulcers.”

The main symptoms are: nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fever, general abdominal pain, back pain, and even necrosis (death) of all or part of your colon.

Damage due to impaired blood flow

Ischemic colitis is damage to the colon that occurs when blood flow is reduced in a part of the large intestine, caused by the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels.

The main symptoms are: abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and general malaise.

The Crohn ‘s disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the digestive system.

It is one of a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel diseases.

This disease can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus and normally the inflammation causes a lot of abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss and consequently malnutrition.

Campylobacter, infection of the small intestine

Infection with the Campylobacter bacteria is one of the leading causes of acute diarrhea worldwide.

The risk of this infection increases in patients with HIV and AIDS.

The main symptoms are: fatigue, bloating, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), fever, general abdominal pain, and severe diarrhea.

Yersinia intestinal infection

Yersinia enterocolitica is a foodborne bacterial illness.

Usually the disease is caused by eating raw pork.

The main symptoms are: abdominal pain (stomach ache), diarrhea, fever, vomiting.

Intestinal infection with amoeba parasite

Visiting or living in places with poor hygiene can lead to parasitic infections that can cause long-lasting diarrhea and stomach pain.

Amoeba causes symptoms such as: nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, chills.

Shigella infection

Shigella infection is an acute bacterial infection caused by a group of bacteria called shigella.

The infection affects the intestines and can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in the stool.

The main symptoms are: diarrhea, general abdominal pain, fatigue, severe diarrhea, loss of appetite.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome

Hemolytic uremic syndrome represents a disorder that usually occurs when contamination of the digestive system causes the appearance of toxic substances.

These substances destroy red blood cells, and cause kidney damage.

The main symptoms are: abdominal pain (stomach ache), fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps).

Escherichia coli infection

There are many strains of the E. coli bacteria.

Some strains normally live in the intestines and do not cause disease.

Enterhemorrhagic Escherichia coli is a strain of bacteria that can be acquired worldwide by eating contaminated food, especially raw ground beef, raw products, or ready-to-eat deli meats.

Contracting this type of bacteria can release toxins and cause bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and severe pain in the abdomen.

Viral infections

These are probably the most common infections that cause bloody stools and many viruses are capable of doing this, such as Norovirus, Rotavirus, and Adenovirus.

Parasitic infections

Infections with parasites such as Entamoeba histolytica and Giardia Lamblia (very common in hikers who drink water with excrement) can cause bloody diarrhea.

Colon cancer

Colon cancer can cause diarrhea (which may or may not be bloody) and constipation.

Other symptoms associated with colon cancer include a change in bowel habits, stomach pain, fatigue, weight loss, and anemia.

Salmonella

Bacterial infections due to Salmonella, these infectious conditions are most commonly the cause of transient diarrhea that affects children.

Incomplete digestion of food

Some people cannot digest lactose, a condition known as lactose intolerance, which is the sugar found in milk.

Others have difficulty digesting and absorbing fatty or starchy foods, this incomplete digestion usually causes diarrhea.

Celiac disease also reduces the ability of the intestine to absorb food and also causes diarrhea.

Medicines

Taking certain medications, such as antibiotics, antacids (containing magnesium or laxatives), medications to treat blood pressure and arthritis, or those such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Hormonal disorders

Hypothyroidism can cause changes in the digestive system: frequent defecation or diarrhea.

Hormonal disorders like diabetes also cause diarrhea.

Chronic constipation

When the intestine is blocked by hard, impacted stools, there is the possibility that some fluids may seep past the blockage.

This is a condition, called “spurious” or “overflow” diarrhea, and is more common in geriatric patients.

Diarrhea does not always depend on something that has been ingested; a distressing event or disruption can also cause it.

Symptoms

The main feature of diarrhea is stool that is too soft and liquid in consistency.

Additional symptoms such as abdominal cramps and nausea may occur. The patient may feel a swollen abdomen. You might even have a fever with chills.

If the diarrhea persists for several days, you are likely to experience dizziness or weakness.

This comes from the rapid loss of minerals, electrolytes, sugar, and water that the body needs to function.

In general, diarrhea does not cause loss of bowel control, but if it does, a doctor should be consulted.

The patient may have a decrease in urination.

This is because the body loses water in the stool instead of being eliminated in the urine.

In cases where diarrhea lasts more than 72 hours, and the patient has a fever of 38.5 ° C or more, if there is blood or pus in the stool, if he feels abdominal pain or severe vomiting that prevents the patient can replace fluids orally, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Immediate medical attention should be sought in cases where diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • The diarrhea has persisted for more than 24 hours.
  • Diarrhea that is dark red or black.
  • Have severe abdominal pain.
  • Have signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, and excessive thirst.
  • Have a fever (> 38.5 ° C).
  • Be over 65 years old.
  • Be pregnant.
  • Currently being or having recently finished taking a course of antibiotics.

Diagnosis

Doctors are generally not required to find the cause of acute diarrhea.

But if the diarrhea lasts for more than four days or if the patient has other symptoms, such as fever or bloody stools, then the cause does need to be diagnosed.

Your doctor may use information from your medical history, family history, physical exam, or medical tests to find the cause of your diarrhea.

The doctor should know the foods and medications that the patient is taking, even those that are sold without a prescription.

In the physical examination the doctor will evaluate the hydration status and examine the abdomen of the patient.

Blood and urine tests may be ordered to detect the presence of a possible infection.

Stool testing may take several days, but it is important for your doctor to know what is causing your diarrhea so that he or she can recommend appropriate treatment.

In the case of chronic diarrhea, endoscopic procedures such as:

  • A colonoscopy.
  • Una sigmoidoscopia flexible.
  • An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.

In these tests, an endoscope is inserted to look inside the body to find the causes of diarrhea.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and restore normal bowel movements.

It is also important to prevent dehydration that can occur from the loss of an abnormal amount of fluids during acute diarrhea, especially in pediatric and geriatric patients.

The use of medications to suspend bowel movements is not absolutely necessary.

If possible, adults should wait 48 to 72 hours for the diarrhea to stop on its own.

By allowing it to “run its course,” the body can naturally rid itself of the organisms or toxins that cause diarrhea.

However, special attention should be paid to the symptoms of dehydration and if the diarrhea persists for more than 72 hours, the doctor should be consulted.

When the cause of diarrhea is parasitic or bacterial in origin, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to eliminate it.

The use of antidiarrheal medications such as loperamide or bismuth diphenoxylate salicylate should be avoided.

These medications can complicate enterhemorrhagic Escherichia coli infections.

Some prebiotics can help prevent or treat some of the causes of diarrhea.

Treating bloody diarrhea requires addressing the underlying cause.

When diarrhea is accompanied by blood, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, smoking, alcohol consumption, aspirin, anticoagulants, and antiplatelet agents should be avoided.

Any antibiotic treatment should be discontinued.

As with any diarrhea, it is important to stay well hydrated and well nourished.

It is equally important to replace electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, and this can be done with commercial sports drinks, bars, and fluids that contain sodium and potassium.

As soon as the first symptoms of diarrhea appear, drink plenty of “clear” liquids, at least 2 cups an hour.

The oral rehydration solutions of choice are those whose composition is closest to intestinal fluid, especially for children and the elderly.

A health professional should be consulted before treating a child or any patient who, in addition to diarrhea, has vomiting.

It is recommended after a diarrhea attack, to relax until the diarrhea disappears.

Eat a fat-free diet and eat foods that “hold in” stool and slow down movement in the colon, such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

Complications

Dehydration caused by loss of water during frequent bowel movements can lead to serious complications.

For example, it can cause drugs to pass through the body too quickly and affect their effectiveness due to lack of absorption.

Dehydration can lead to kidney damage and electrolyte imbalances as well.

Complications secondary to diarrhea can occur rapidly in elderly or severely debilitated patients, as well as in young people with significant diarrhea.

Always consult a doctor when a child with diarrhea has not urinated for 6 hours, as the child could be severely dehydrated.

Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, increased thirst, decreased urine output, decreased sweating, feeling weak or lightheaded.

Other symptoms include nausea, muscle cramps, and a very high body temperature.

Prevention

The patient should strive to find out what caused the diarrhea, so that he can avoid it in the future.

Because there are several infectious agents that cause diarrhea, special attention should be paid to the following:

  • Avoid touching the hands of the person with diarrhea. If you need to touch them, wash your hands immediately after doing so.
  • Wash your hands before preparing meals and after using the bathroom, especially if you have diarrhea, then dry them with a disposable paper towel, not the common family bath towel.
  • Food contains many of the infectious agents that cause diarrhea. You should refrain from eating raw meat or raw seafood. Also, be very careful with foods that are out of date and those that have been left in the open air.