What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is defined as the movement of loose or watery stools, typically at least three times in a 24-hour period. It can be described as acute (less than 14 days) or chronic (more than 30 days) in nature.
Common causes of diarrhea include medications, surgeries, food intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), malabsorption syndromes (lactose intolerance, celiac disease), microscopic colitis, chronic pancreatitis, bacterial overgrowth, or gallbladder removal. Other causes can be infectious or viral.
The major causes of acute infectious diarrhea include viruses (norovirus, rotavirus, adenoviruses, astrovirus), bacteria (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, Clostridioides difficile), and protozoa (Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Cyclospora, Entamoeba).
If you experience diarrhea, loose stool, irregular bowel patterns, or increased frequency of stool, it is important to be evaluated. Diarrhea is a nuisance and can be a sign of multiple GI disorders and is also something people at times live with, thinking it is normal, when it in fact can be easily treated. Diarrhea can be acute or chronic and require different methods of evaluation.
What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
Symptoms of diarrhea can include loose, watery stool, pale stool, greasy stool, foul-smelling stools, abdominal pain, weight loss, fever, stomach cramping, pain after eating, urgency, bloating, mucous in stool and nausea.
Symptoms that can be associated with diarrhea or bowel habits that require more prompt attention include melena or dark, black, tarry-colored stool, bright red blood in stool, nighttime awakenings with significant diarrhea, unexplained recent weight loss or fevers.
How is diarrhea diagnosed?
A careful history and physical exam are important parts to the diagnosis of diarrhea. Often, your provider will start the workup with serum blood work including an assessment of metabolic factors, hormone levels and blood counts. Stool studies are a very important part of evaluating both acute and chronic diarrhea. Endoscopic studies, both EGD/upper endoscopy and colonoscopy are helpful, as are certain imaging studies. Each patient has a unique history and a diagnostic workup is tailored to that individual.
How is diarrhea treated?
Treatment for diarrhea is personalized to each patient, with the goal of choosing therapy that best matches each individual’s disease pattern and severity. Treatment is based on the cause of the diarrhea and is individualized based on presentation. Treatment can include a broad variety of prescription medications, as well as fiber supplements and certain probiotics. A long-term plan for treating diarrhea also focuses on long term maintenance, adequate and proper nutrition, and prevention-based strategies.
Diarrhea treatment in Colorado Springs
Our experienced team of physicians and advanced practice providers at Associates in Gastroenterology can help you with your concerns, questions and management of all aspects of gastrointestinal and liver disease. We would love to be your gastroenterology practice. Please schedule an appointment either by calling us (719-635-7321) or by clicking here.
6031 E Woodmen Rd #100
Colorado Springs, CO, 80923
2940 N. Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO, 80909
Endoscopy Centers of Colorado Springs – Audubon Medical Campus
2940 North Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO, 80909
Endoscopy Centers of Colorado Springs – St Francis Medical Campus