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Diarrhea

Diarrhea Overview

Patient Comments

Diarrhea is the frequent passage of loose, watery, soft stools with or without abdominal bloating, pressure, and cramps commonly referred to as gas. Diarrhea can come on suddenly, run its course, and be helped with home care to prevent complications such as dehydration.

  • Diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses in all age groups and ranks along with the common cold as a main cause of lost days of work or school.
    • People of all ages can suffer from diarrhea, and the average adult has one episode of acute diarrhea per year, and young children average two acute episodes per year.
  • Diarrhea and related complications can cause severe illness. The most significant cause of severe illness is loss of water and electrolytes. In diarrhea, fluid passes out of the body before it can be absorbed by the intestines. When the ability to drink fluids fast enough to compensate for the water loss because of diarrhea is impaired, dehydration can result. Most deaths from diarrhea occur in the very young and the elderly whose health may be put at risk from a moderate amount of dehydration.
  • Diarrhea can be further defined in the following ways:
    • chronic diarrhea is the presence of loose or liquid stools for over two weeks;
    • acute enteritis is inflammation of the intestine;
    • gastroenteritis (stomach flu) is diarrhea associated with nausea and vomiting; or
    • dysentery is diarrhea that contains blood, pus, or mucus.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2012
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Diarrhea »

Acute diarrhea is defined as the abrupt onset of abnormally high fluid content in the stool (more than the normal value of approximately 10 mL/kg/d).

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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