Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Diarrhea Overview

What is diarrhea?
A person with diarrhea has loose or watery stool. Usually, inflammation of the intestine causes water, and mucus to leak from the lining of the intestine. Sometimes, food and fluid pass through the intestine too quickly. The most common cause of diarrhea is an infection, called gastroenteritis. Diarrhea due to gastroenteritis can be caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Other causes for diarrhea include food allergy, intestinal malabsorption, and drug side effects.

What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
Symptoms depend on the underlying cause for the diarrhea. Stools may be watery, bloody, or contain green or yellow mucus. Symptoms that commonly occur with diarrhea include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and muscle weakness. Loss of fluids from diarrhea may cause dehydration symptoms.

How does the doctor treat diarrhea?
The treatment for diarrhea depends on the underlying cause. Treatment for diarrhea may include plenty of fluids, clear liquid diet, and medications to control nausea and vomiting. Some may benefit from antibiotics and medications to lessen diarrhea. Severe dehydration may be treated with intravenous fluids.

Continue to Diarrhea Symptoms

Last Updated: Feb 8, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Diarrhea References
  1. Aranda-Michel J, Giannella RA. Acute diarrhea: a practical review. Am J Med. 1999 Jun;106(6):670-6. [10378626]
  2. Camilleri M. Chronic diarrhea: a review on pathophysiology and management for the clinical gastroenterologist. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004 Mar;2(3):198-206. [15017602]
  3. Fine KD, Schiller LR. AGA technical review on the evaluation and management of chronic diarrhea. Gastroenterology. 1999 Jun;116(6):1464-86. [10348832]
  4. Mylonakis E, Ryan ET, Calderwood SB. Clostridium difficile--Associated diarrhea: A review. Arch Intern Med. 2001 Feb 26;161(4):525-33. [11252111]
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