William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Diarrhea facts
- What is diarrhea?
- How is diarrhea defined?
- Why does diarrhea develop?
- What symptoms are associated with diarrhea?
- What are common causes of acute diarrhea?
- Viral gastroenteritis
- Food poisoning
- Traveler's diarrhea
- Bacterial enterocolitis
- What are common causes of chronic diarrhea?
- What are the complications of diarrhea?
- When should the doctor be called for diarrhea?
- What tests are useful in the evaluation of diarrhea?
- How can dehydration be prevented and treated?
- How is diarrhea treated?
- When should antibiotics be used for diarrhea?
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
What symptoms are associated with diarrhea?
The symptoms that are associated with diarrhea depend on the cause and type of diarrhea.
- If there is a large secretory component to the diarrhea the bowel movements are frequent and watery. Pain is not common, and there are no signs of inflammation.
- Similarly, an osmotic diarrhea is watery, but its main characteristic is that once ingestion of food stops (which would include the offending dietary food or substance that is not digested or absorbed) the diarrhea stops.
- Motility related diarrhea is more likely to be associated with cramping abdominal pain.
- Inflammatory diarrhea often is associated with crampy abdominal pain as well as signs of inflammation, for example, fever and abdominal tenderness. It also may be associated with intestinal bleeding, either with visible blood in the stool or invisible blood that only is detected by testing the stool for blood.
- Although one might expect the diarrhea of collagenous colitis to be painless (since diarrhea is believed to be due to poor absorption of fluid and electrolytes), in fact, it is frequently associated with abdominal pain, suggesting that there is more to collagenous colitis than a failure to absorb fluid and electrolytes.
What are common causes of acute diarrhea?
The most common cause of acute diarrhea is infection--viral, bacterial, and parasitic. Bacteria also can cause acute food poisoning. A third important cause of acute diarrhea is starting a new medication.
Next: Viral gastroenteritis
Viewers share their comments
Get the latest treatment options.