Diarrhea - Overview
Stools - watery; Frequent bowel movements; Loose bowel movements
Definition of Diarrhea:
Diarrhea is loose, watery, and frequent stools. Diarrhea is considered long-term (chronic) when you have had loose or frequent stools for more than 4 weeks.
Diarrhea in in infants and children (especially under age 3) can caused dangerous dehydration very quickly.
Diarrhea in adults is usually mild and goes away quickly without complications.
The most common cause of diarrhea is viral gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu. This is a mild viral infection that goes away on its own within a few days.
Eating or drinking contaminated food or water can also lead to diarrhea. Such common causes of diarrhea include:
Certain medications may also cause diarrhea, including:
- Certain antibiotics
- Laxatives containing magnesium
Diarrhea may also be caused by certain medical conditions, including:
Less common causes of diarrhea include:
- Reviewed last on: 2/16/2011
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Schiller RL, Sellin JH. Diarrhea. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 15.
Semrad CE, Powell DW. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2007:chap 143.
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