Diarrhea

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Diarrhea is a familiar phenomenon defined as unusually frequent or unusually soft or liquid bowel movements. It is the opposite of constipation. The word "diarrhea" with its odd spelling is a near steal from the Greek "diarrhoia" meaning "a flowing through."

Diarrhea can be acute, that is, sudden in onset and short-lived or it may be prolonged. Most acute episodes of diarrhea are due to viral infections and last 3-5 days. Prolonged diarrhea--lasting more than 4-6 weeks, usually is due to an underlying gastrointestinal disease, the most common of which are diseases that cause inflammation and malabsorption of food. Intermittent diarrhea, sometimes alternating with constipation, is part of a syndrome of functional bowel disease called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In most cases, treatment of diarrhea includes drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and over-the-counter remedies to decrease and solidify bowel movements. Evaluation by a physician generally is needed if diarrhea is severe, results in dehydration, persists for more than a couple of weeks, or if there is a high fever or blood in the stools.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/22/2012

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REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.


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