Chronic or severe diarrhea can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition, and it can also increase the risk of dehydration. Prestige Emergency Room is a leading provider of emergency services for patients in and around San Antonio, TX, helping patients control diarrhea and understand its underlying cause using our expertise in diarrhea diagnosis and diarrhea treatment.
What causes diarrhea?
Many things can cause diarrhea, but the most common causes include:
- Gastrointestinal infection (a stomach “bug”)
- Food poisoning
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Chronic or acute stress
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Gallbladder disease
Most of us have occasional bouts of diarrhea, usually as a result of stress or eating some types of foods. These cases of diarrhea usually clear up on their on, and drinking plenty of fluids can help avoid dehydration. But persistent or recurrent diarrhea can be an indication of a serious disorder, and it can also cause dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes that can result in more serious symptoms. We have expertise in diarrhea diagnosis and treatment.
How can I tell what’s causing my diarrhea?
The gastrointestinal system depends on a normal balance of “good” microorganisms to function properly, and when this balance becomes disturbed, diarrhea is often the result. Because so many things can affect this balance, including food sensitivities, stress and illness, determining the cause of diarrhea – both acute and chronic – can be difficult. Seeing the doctor for diarrhea that lasts more than a couple of days (or a single day in very young or elderly patients) is very important to prevent dehydration or to have other evaluations performed to determine if an underlying issue like IBS or IBD is involved. If diarrhea is dark or has a sticky consistency (indicating blood), treatment should be sought immediately.
How is diarrhea treated?
Before diarrhea treatment is provided, patients will have an examination including a review of their symptoms and a personal and family medical history to look for potential risk factors that could make them more prone to certain diseases affecting the bowels. The doctor will gently feel the belly to look for areas of swelling or pain, and diagnostic evaluations and tests like a CT scan or ultrasound may be ordered. Once the diarrhea diagnosis is determined, diarrhea treatment may include medication to treat infections or control painful spasms, dietary or lifestyle changes, or more aggressive treatments for serious underlying diseases or conditions. Patients who are dehydrated may receive fluids as well.