Causes and Symptoms of Diarrhea


Causes of Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea is usually related to a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. Chronic diarrhea is usually related to functional disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

A few of the more common causes of diarrhea include the following:

  • Bacterial Infections
    Several types of bacteria consumed through contaminated food or water can cause diarrhea. Common culprits include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
  • Viral Infections
    Many viruses cause diarrhea, including rotavirus, Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, and viral hepatitis.
  • Food Intolerances
    Some people are unable to digest food components such as artificial sweeteners and lactose – the sugar found in milk.
  • Parasites
    Parasites can enter the body through food or water and settle in the digestive system. Parasites that cause diarrhea include Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, and Cryptosporidium.
  • Reaction to Medicines
    Antibiotics, blood pressure medications, cancer drugs, and antacids containing magnesium can all cause diarrhea.
  • Intestinal Diseases
    Inflammatory bowel disease, colitis (irritation of the colon), Crohn’s Disease, and Celiac Disease often lead to diarrhea.
  • Functional Bowel Disorders
    Diarrhea can be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.

Some people develop diarrhea after stomach surgery or removal of the gallbladder. The reason may be a change in how quickly food moves through the digestive system after stomach surgery or an increase in bile in the colon after gallbladder surgery.

People who visit foreign countries are at risk for traveler’s diarrhea, which is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Traveler’s diarrhea can be a problem for people visiting developing countries. Visitors to the United States, Canada, most European countries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand do not face much risk for traveler’s diarrhea.

In many cases, the cause of diarrhea cannot be found. As long as diarrhea goes away on its own, an extensive search for the cause is not usually necessary.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

Diarrhea may be accompanied by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, or an urgent need to use the bathroom. Depending on the cause, a person may have a fever or bloody stools.


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Disclaimer
The information discussed above is a general overview and does not include all the facts, or include everything there is to know about any medicine and/or products mentioned. Do not use any medicine and/or products without first talking to your doctor. Possible side effects of medications, other than those listed, may occur. Other brand names or generic forms of this medicine may also be available. If you have questions or concerns, or want more information, your doctor or pharmacist has the complete prescribing information about this medicine and possible drug interactions.