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  • Diarrhea

    Diarrhea, from the Greek word meaning "a flowing through", is the condition of having frequent loose or liquid bowel movements.

    Three Types of Diarrhea

    All types of diarrhea result in an abnormally large amount water in the bowel. 

    Osmotic diarrhea describes the process whereby something in the bowel draws water from the body into the bowel. The substance is not absorbed by the body, states in the bowel, and draws water from the body into the bowel, resulting in diarrhea.

     Secretory diarrhea describes the process whereby the body releases water into the bowel when it is not supposed to. Certain infections, medications, and other conditions affecting the bowel can cause secretory diarrhea. Most types of secretory diarrhea involve a process where the intestinal muscles contract too frequently resulting in less absorption of water and nutrients, and producing diarrhea.

    Exudative diarrhea describes the process whereby blood and pus is found in the bowel. Exudative diarrhea occurs in certain bowel infections, and inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

    Causes of Diarrhea

    The most common cause of diarrhea is a viral infection of the bowel. Viral infections usually lasts for two days and resolves on its own. This type of infection is often called "intestinal or stomach flu. Other common causes of diarrhea include infection by bacteria (the cause of most types of food poisoning, Infections by other types of organisms, ingestion of foods that upset the bowel or cause allergies, medications, radiation treatment or exposure, diseases of the bowel (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis), Irritable bowel syndrome, malabsorption, hyperthyroidism, some types of cancer, laxative abuse, alcohol abuse, diabetes, and bowel surgery.

    Diarrhea is very common and most people will have diarrhea once or twice each year. Diarrhea can cause severe dehydration and can also cause the loss of significant amounts of important salts, electrolytes, and other nutrients. If these losses are severe, then a serious illness or even death can occur.

    Symptoms indicating a serious form of diarrhea include the presence of blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool, black or tarry stools, weight loss, or fever.

    If you have diarrhea for more than 3 days, fever that lasts more than 24 hours or reaches 102 degrees or higher, severe pain in the abdomen or rectum, or severe vomiting that prevents you from drinking liquids, then seek medical attention immediately.

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