Diarrhoea: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Diarrhoea is the frequent passing of at least three loose or liquid bowel movements each day. It often lasts for 2-3 days and can result in dehydration due to fluid loss. Signs of dehydration begin with the loss of normal stretchiness of the skin and irritable behavior. In severe cases, it can progress to decreased urination, loss of skin color, a fast heart rate, and a decrease in responsiveness.

Diarrhoea is caused by an infection of the intestines either due to a virus, bacteria, or parasite; acquired from food or water that has been contaminated by feces, or directly from another person who is infected.

Three types of diarrhoea include short duration watery diarrhea, short duration bloody diarrhea, and persistent diarrhea. This disease can be prevented by improved sanitation, clean drinking water, and hand washing with soap. It is recommended in diarrhoea to continue to eat healthy food and babies continue to be breastfed.

About 1.7-5 billion cases of diarrhea occur per year. It is common in developing countries, where young children get diarrhea on average three times a year. Frequent episodes of diarrhea is a common cause of malnutrition and the most common cause in those younger than five years of age.

How Does Diarrhoea Affect Your Body?

Diarrhea may have a negative impact on both physical fitness and mental development and causes electrolyte imbalances, renal impairment, dehydration, and defective immune system responses.

What Are The Causes of Diarrhoea?

  • Microbes – Diarrhoea is mostly caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite infection in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Diseases – Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause chronic diarrhea.
  • Sanitation – Open defecation is the leading cause of infectious diarrhea leading to death.
  • Water – Lack of clean water can cause infectious diarrhoea and often, improper fecal disposal leads to contamination of groundwater.
  • Nutrition – Zinc deficiency and vitamin A deficiency can cause an increase in the severity of diarrheal episodes due to improper functioning of the human immune system.
  • Drug-induced diarrhoea – Laxatives and other drugs, including antibiotics, can trigger diarrhoea.

 What Are The Risk Factors of Diarrhoea?

  • Age – Newborns (two-month-old babies) are at highest risk. Children aged 3years or younger and elderly patients are vulnerable to dehydration.
  • Environment – Poor sanitation and hygiene can increase the risk.
  • Medications – few antibiotics increase the risk of diarrhoea.
  • Comorbidities – Diabetes, kidney disease and history of intussusceptions may increase the chances of causing diarrhoea.

What Are The Symptoms of Diarrhoea?

Watery bowel movements along with mucus, pus, blood or excessive amounts of fat are the symptoms of diarrhoea.

Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Bloating
  • Weakness

In children, diarrhoea may cause:

  • Dry mouth
  • Passing less urine
  • Irritability

How is Diarrhoea Diagnosed?

  • Blood test – This help in knowing the cause of diarrhoea.
  • Stool test – To determine whether a bacterium or parasite is causing diarrhea.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy – This is performed to look at the lining of the colon and provide biopsies if no cause is evident for persistent diarrhea.

How to Prevent And Control Diarrhoea?

The following can help prevent diarrhea:

  • Clean and safe drinking water
  • Good sanitation systems
  • Healthy hygiene practices like handwashing with soap after defecation
  • Breastfeeding for the first 6 months

Treatment of Diarrhoea- Allopathic Treatment

Treating the underlying cause –

  • IBS can be treated with medications that help reduce inflammation in the bowel.
  • Coeliac disease can be treated by excluding foods containing gluten from the diet.
  • Bile acid malabsorption can be treated with medications that help stop bile building up in the digestive system.

Medications used are –

  • Loperamide – This medicine slows down the muscle movements in the gut so more water is absorbed from stools. This makes stools firmer and they’re passed less frequently.
  • Racecadotril – This works by reducing the amount of water produced by the small intestine.
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen – Either of this medicine can help relieve a fever and a headache.
  • Antibiotics – Antibiotics is recommended in case of severe diarrhoea and when a specific type of bacteria has been identified as the cause.

Treatment of Diarrhoea- Homeopathic Treatment

  • Arsenicum – Recommended for a person who is restless, exhausted, having pain in the abdomen, rectal burning with a bowel movement.
  • Colocynthis – This is prescribed for abdominal pain, vomiting when pain is severe.
  • Cuprum Arsenicosum – This is for burning, colicky pains in lower bowels, with vomiting sensation of collapse.
  • Podophyllum – This is prescribed for profuse, offensive smelling yellow or yellow-green stools, often completely liquid.
  • Sulphur – This is prescribed when there is an urgent need to defecate.

Diarrhoea – Lifestyle Tips

  • Drink plenty amount of water and other fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid fatty, high-fiber or highly seasoned food.
  • Stay at home and get plenty of rest.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding even if the baby has diarrhea.
  • Take paracetamol if feeling discomfort.
  • Wash your hands properly before having meal.

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Diarrhoea?

Perform the following exercise for at least 30 minutes –

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Cycling
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Diarrhoea & Pregnancy – Things to Know

  • Diarrhea during pregnancy is a very common condition which may resolve by taking preventive measure.
  • However, in severe cases, it may cause dehydration and impede the blood flow to the fetus.
  • Diarrhoea caused by complications in second or third trimester can be risky to the fetus.

Common Complications Related to Diarrhoea

  • Dehydration, with acute or chronic diarrhea.
  • Mal-absorption, with chronic diarrhea.
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