Chronic diarrhea refers to loose stools lasting for a minimal period of four weeks. There are various likely causes of chronic diarrhea, and chronic diarrhea treatment aims to correct the causes of diarrhea and any symptoms patients may be suffering from.
If you experience diarrhea, and most people do, your stool becomes very loose and watery. You usually feel nauseous or suffer from cramps in your stomach. It is very common and is usually not serious. Chronic diarrhea normally lasts for two to three days. Over-the-counter medications may be effective in chronic diarrhea treatment, so patients rarely need prescription strength medicines.
Chronic diarrhea can have a huge impact on your quality of life and your overall health. At best, diarrhea is an embarrassment while at worst, it can be disabling or even life-threatening. Luckily, there are effective treatments available.
- An urgent need to use the toilet, resulting in watery or loose stools.
- Nausea, vomiting, bloating, and stomach cramps.
If chronic diarrhea is more serious, the symptoms include:
- Weight loss.
- Blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool.
- If you experience watery stools more than three times in a day while taking in enough fluids, you can become dehydrated.
There are many possible causes of chronic diarrhea. Some of the most common causes are inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS malabsorption syndromes in which your body cannot digest and absorb food) and other prolonged conditions. Some less common causes of chronic diarrhea are:
- Infections — Intestinal infections can also cause chronic diarrhea. Infections that cause chronic diarrhea are visible in people who visit or live in tropical or developing countries. They can also develop chronic diarrhea as a result of eating contaminated food or drinking unclean water.
- Endocrine Disorders — Endocrine disorders can cause chronic diarrhea and weight loss. If the nerves that serve the digestive tract get injured, this creates problems in effectively removing waste from the body. This can sometimes mean constipation but can also lead to chronic diarrhea.
- Food Allergy or Sensitivity — Food allergies and hypersensitivity may also cause chronic diarrhea. People affected by the celiac disease are gluten sensitive. Gluten, which is a major constituent of wheat flour, can cause diarrhea and loss of weight. Lactose intolerance can also cause diarrhea.
- Medicine —Both prescription and over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and herbal supplements can cause diarrhea. In order to determine if a medicine is the cause of your diarrhea, you should review your list of prescriptions and supplements with your specialist.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
You should call your doctor immediately if you have black or tarry stools, blood in your stool, a fever above 101 F, diarrhea that lasts for more than 2 days, nausea, severe vomiting, pains in your stomach or rectum, or diarrhea after returning from overseas travel.
The main aim of chronic diarrhea treatment is to eliminate the underlying cause – if the cause is known. It aims to make the bowel movements firmer and to treat any diarrhea-related complications. Sometimes, you can take an over-the-counter drug such as Bismuth Subsalicylate which is available in liquid or tablet form. You must follow the instructions on the package properly.
- Treating the Cause – It is integral to establish and treat the possible cause of chronic diarrhea if possible. In cases where it is an infection, antibiotics may be the answer. If it is Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis, you might need to seek long-term treatment and follow-up.
- Treating Diarrhea – Eliminating symptoms of diarrhea is the main goal when treating patients. However, this method usually comes before testing, when the results of the tests are not helpful, or when the main cause of the diarrhea is a chronic medical problem.
- Trial Treatments – Your specialist might recommend that you try a treatment before they carry out any more tests. This method can help you narrow down the possible causes of your diarrhea.
- Complications – Dehydration and malnutrition are some of the serious complications that can arise with chronic diarrhea. So you should drink plenty of fluids during the evaluation process. If you are drinking enough fluids and you still become dehydrated, you may need to be given fluids intravenously to replace minerals and electrolytes. Even though this will not cure your diarrhea, it will prevent more serious complications.
Featured Image Source: Thinkstock/ moodboardPosted on May 5, 2023