Diarrhea normally lasts for one or two days although it may take longer. If it goes on for more than four weeks, it is considered chronic diarrhea.
From a medical viewpoint, diarrhea refers to a condition that comes about because of frequent, very loose and watery stool movements. It occurs when harmful micro-organisms cause irritation of the mucous lined membrane of both the ileum and colon resulting in an excess quantity of water being moved out of the body.
Stool movements are also called bowel movements and are passed out from the body via the anus. The stool we pass out is as a result of the body absorbing the needed nutrients and fluids from the food we have eaten. If this does not happen, then the stool we pass out will be watery or very watery.
Loose stools contain salts, water and other nutrients and tend to weigh more than solid stools. Diarrhea affects most people several times in their lives and should not cause you any worries. However, it can be irritating if it affects you and can take a few days to up to a week to clear up. If it goes on for more than a week then you will need to visit a doctor to have it checked out.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Well, diarrhea can be brought about by several factors, some minor, others major. In most cases, the main cause can be gastroenteritis. This is caused by:
Virus: This could be norovirus, rotavirus, calici virus and adenovirus.
Bacteria: Several bacteria can cause this too including campylobacter, staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, vibrio cholerae and escherichia coli. They are mostly found in or on contaminated substances i.e. food and water.
Parasite: A number of parasites mainly present in contaminated water sources can cause diarrhea. They include giardialamblia, tapeworms and cryptosporidium parvum.
Diarrhea can also be spread through other means. One can be affected during traveling, especially in those areas where hygiene and sanitation standards are low. It is medically referred to as Traveler’s Diarrhea. Other causes or factors include; food poisoning, over consumption of alcohol, diseases such as cholera, side effects of using certain drugs like, anti-hypertensive, antibiotics and deworming drugs, chronic constipation, cancers, hormonal disorders, intolerance of gluten, laxatives, intolerance to lactose, anxiety and its related disorders as well as irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
You can tell if you have diarrhea when you exhibit some or all of the following signs and symptoms:
- Presence of blood spots in the stool
- Persistent vomiting or a feeling of nausea.
- Severe or persistent stomach problems
- Drastic or sudden weight loss
- Signs of dehydration including excessive sweating, urinating or drowsiness.
- Reduced or complete loss of appetite
- Black or tarry stool
- High fever
Forms of Diarrhea
There are two types of medical diarrhea conditions: the acute form of diarrhea and chronic diarrhea. Acute diarrhea is the most common form and it affects lots of people worldwide. In the United States, it is so common that it comes second to respiratory related infections. It lasts less than 2 weeks and it is deemed less serious. If it goes untreated, then it can become chronic. In babies, acute diarrhea can be life-threatening as their chances of getting dehydration are very high.
Chronic diarrhea on the other hand is regarded as serious and life threatening. It lasts from 2 weeks to up to 4 weeks and if not treated can lead to death.
Chronic diarrhea is at times categorized as either being fatty, watery or inflammatory. It may be due to inflammatory bowel disease that is medically termed as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Other causes can include infections arising from radiotherapy, cancer of the colon or ischemia of the stomach.
Types of Diarrhea
There are two types of diarrhea. There is Rotavirus diarrhea and Traveler’s Diarrhea. Rotavirus diarrhea mainly affects babies and children and is among the leading killers of babies and children. Traveler’s Diarrhea mainly affects people who travel from one place to another less hygienic place.