What is Diarrhea and How is it Treated?

What is Diarrhea

If you are experiencing three or more loose bowel movements in a day, you are suffering from a condition known as diarrhea. An episode of loose bowels simply means that the increase of water is present in the fecal matter, sometimes making the bowel movement a liquid extraction instead of a soft solid. With the increased loss of fluids, this condition can soon cause electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. In most cases this condition can just be an acute annoyance to a person suffering from this condition, but often times if untreated especially in children under 5 it can become life threatening. Diarrhea remains the second cause of death, behind pneumonia, in children under the age of 5. On average 250,000 people a year are seen and hospitalized in ER’s every year. The condition is predominately caused by a rotavirus or bacterial infection; however it can also be an early sign of something more serious and should not be taken lightly if it becomes chronic.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

Loose bowels caused by this simple condition will often times leave the person suffering with abdominal cramping, a slight fever, and nausea or vomiting, and possibly a minimal amount of weight loss due to the release of fluids from the loose bowels. This condition can be more annoying than anything and is most likely to pass in a short period of time, commonly three to five days. Most of the symptoms from this condition are caused from the effect of the water and salts lost from loose bowels.If you experience more than the basic symptoms of diarrhea it could be a sign of a more serious condition. More severe cases of this condition will last more than a few days to a week; there may also be blood or mucus in the stool. Undigested food in feces or significant weight loss does not occur with a simple contraction from a rotavirus or bacteria. Chronic loose bowels can be a sign of a number of medical conditions that affect the intestines.

Diarrhea treatments

There is no specific prescription for non threatening diarrhea treatment; most cases of loose bowels require only the treatment of replacing the fluids and salts lost. This can be done through oral supplementation of fluids containing electrolytes and other minerals to help counteract the effects of dehydration and provide diarrhea treatment. In severe cases fluid replacement may be done intravenously in a hospital room or ER, this specific diarrhea treatment is mainly done for children and the elderly or by not taking any action to replace fluids orally. Pediatricians had once recommended the restriction of dairy products in children for diarrhea treatment, this has been shown to make no difference in the duration of the condition so it is no longer recommended. The reduction of caffeine, fatty foods, and sorbitol a type of sugar found in sugarless gum and candies are however recommended. Often times Bismuth compounds can decrease the number of bowel movements that occur, this however will often times not have any effects on the duration of the condition and can even extend it a few days. Loperamide has been shown to reduce the duration, but has no effect on the bowel movements itself. On occasion diarrhea treatment may consist of antibiotics or supplements of codeine phosphate which are given to help with certain factors causing loose bowels.

Causes of Diarrhea

Most causes of diarrhea are the result of a bacterial infection or a basic virus. These will infect the bowels causing it to expel extra fluid leading to loose bowels. Less common bacterial infections from Escherichia coli (E coli) and salmonellae are a result from eating contaminated foods or drink; this will cause a more severe reaction with vomiting and cramping. If the condition is accompanied by severe weight loss, blood, or becomes chronic it can be caused by more serious factors like ulcerative colitis, Crohns disease, celiac disease, or possibly some forms of an intestinal cancer. Basic diarrhea treatment will not help in these cases and will require help from someone in the health profession. There are hundreds of causes for diarrhea, but thankfully most pass in the duration of a week and are not serious enough to require medical attention. Good general hygiene will more than likely help in the prevention of this common condition and almost always is treated in the privacy of your own home.

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Posted on May 5, 2023