Diarrhea – Diagnosis and Treatment

Diarrhea Diagnosis

Every one is having their own thinking and ideas about defining the word diarrhea. Liquid stool, loose, semi solid or even soft stools every day and if it is frequently in a day, then it can be called as diarrhea.

image by Seegul
image by Seegul

The stool during diarrhea is containing more water and if normal water content goes beyond about 200 ml per day then it can be considered as diarrhea.

Diarrhea can disappear spontaneously in adults without much complication and whereas it may lead to severe complication like dehydration in children particularly below 3 years.

The basic symptom and information that help in the diagnosis are:

1.    Black color stool, presence of blood or mucous.

2.    Bowel movement with abdominal pain and not relieved by evacuation.

3. Dehydration symptoms like light headedness.

4.    Fever from moderate to severe.

5.    Having foul smelling stool.

6.    Greasy or oily stool

7.    Recent travel

8.    Recent stay at diarrhea affected areas.

9.    Newly started medication.

10.     Recent stool modification does not improve quickly.

11. Vomiting.

The following complete history and physical examination will help in the accurate diagnosis of diarrhea.

  • Exact date of the start of diarrhea.
  • Duration of the disease until medical advice is sought.
  • Color and consistency of the stool.
  • Presence of blood in the stool.
  • Presence of mucous in the stool.
  • Other related symptoms of diarrhea
  • The location and nature of abdominal pain.
  • Details of fever if any.
  • Details of the family members with the sickness.
  • Recent travel details
  • Triggering agents if any.
  • Surgery undergone history.
  • Alcohol intake habit.
  • Smoking history.
  • Special diet intake as in diabetic.
image by PHUDEnyc
image by PHUDEnyc

There are many causes for diarrhea. Most of the changes that happen in the bowel movement recover easily and shortly. Even they require no medication. But when they last longer for more than 2 weeks, it requires treatment.

Food is the one of the most reasonable cause for diarrhea both in adults and children. Even a pepper causes diarrhea in some individuals. Many of the people are intolerant to milk products and are because of its lactose content. Fatty food is also a chief cause in making diarrhea. In all these cases, no treatment is required and it can be prevented by avoiding such types of food.

Some of the chemicals used in medicines cause diarrhea in certain individuals. For example magnesium salt, phenolphthalein, cascara causes diarrhea. Sorbitol used in artificial sweetener causes diarrhea. Thus bowel habit changes occur to some medicines also particularly to anti- biotic.

There are over hundreds of bacteria that live in human intestine and they do well to out digestive system. But some of the bacteria and particularly certain viruses infect and causes diarrhea. But all bacteria and viruses are not dangerous and they infect, causes diarrhea and they vanish in a few days. But bacteria like salmonella causes serious effects in diarrhea. They spread from contaminated poultry. Parasites like amoeba and giardia causes diarrhea. They spread generally from stream. The patients with AIDS commonly and often affected by diarrhea by bacteria and viruses. All these instances require prompt medical treatment.

E.coli is one of the most common causes for diarrhea. It spreads rapidly in poor sanitation. It can be prevented by avoiding uncooked food and fruits. Any tap water used for drinking may have E.coli. In poor sanitation area the bottled beverages are safe to drink.

There are certain functional and organic diseases that cause diarrhea in individuals. These include ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, diverticulosis and cancer of the digestive tract. These all disorders require careful medical treatment.

Emotional stress causes many qualities changed in the intestine and irritable bowel syndrome is a condition wherein the bowel movements are not smooth and they are exaggerated and causes diarrhea.

Most of the acute forms of diarrhea do not require any diagnosis and it disappears quickly before finding the cause. But prompt diagnosis is essential for treatment when diarrhea produces serious conditions like dehydration, high body temperature, bloody stools continuously and severe abdominal pain. Particularly patients with weak immune system and patients taking anti biotic for a longer period should have a thorough diagnosis before starting treatment. Earlier stool culture is often very helpful in finding the presence of parasites, and it is also helpful in finding the toxins of antibiotic where antibiotic induced diarrhea occurs. To find out the inflammatory bowel syndrome, stool should be checked for blood and mucus. Examination through sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy is needed in some cases to find out the inflammation of the large intestine and colon. Family history is of very much important when diagnosis is made. The important clue such as weight loss, bloody stool, and nocturnal diarrhea is of value in diagnosing the disorder quickly.

The common anti diarrhea drugs are enough to treat any form of diarrhea in the initial stage and it will be reduced and completely arrested in acute form of diarrhea. Taking liquid food and milk is very much helpful in controlling diarrhea. For persistent diarrhea treatment with bed rest is needed and it is based on diagnosis. But, however, fortunately most of the diarrheas are self limiting, causes are easily identified and effective treatment is also very easier and successful.

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