Symptoms and causes of diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common condition affecting both children and adults. Diarrhea causes loose stools. This can increase the frequency of the bowel movement.

Acute diarrhea can last for a week to two while chronic diarrhea can take up to a month or more before the symptoms begin to ease. Chronic diarrhea causes differ from reasons for acute diarrhea.


There are many symptoms of diarrhea. These can be –

  • Watery stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloody stools
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

Chronic diarrhea can also cause:

  • Improper absorption of nutrients
  • Weight loss

Time to see a doctor:

  • For children, if diarrhea persists beyond a day, it is time to see a doctor. Also, if there are severe dehydration, high fever, and bloody stools, immediately contact your child’s doctor.
  • For adults, if diarrhea persists for more than two days, it is a good idea to seek medical treatment. Also, in cases of severe dehydration, persistent abdominal pain and bloody stools, talk to your doctor about the same.


There are many different causes of both acute and chronic diarrhea.

Acute diarrhea:

Acute diarrhea causes commonly occur due to infections.

  • Viral infections – rotavirus or Norwalk virus
  • Bacterial infections – Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium
  • Antibiotic use – can disturb the natural gut environment by killing good bacteria inside it.

Chronic diarrhea:

Chronic diarrhea causes can include bowel diseases and other conditions.

  • Bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Colon cancer, radiation therapy
  • Infections
  • Low pancreatic enzymes – can occur due to pancreatic trauma through alcohol consumption, pancreatic cancer or cystic fibrosis.
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Intolerance or improper absorption of fructose and sorbitol.
  • Medicines like antibiotics, antacids

Chronic diarrhea causes can cause persistent symptoms. The only way to treat chronic diarrhea is to treat the underlying cause. Your doctor can look into your medical history and diet to determine chronic diarrhea causes about your condition and recommend a treatment plan. For acute diarrhea that doesn’t get better in a day or two, your doctor may prescribe medicines.

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