Authors: Juan-Pablo Caeiro, M. DuPont, M. Acute diarrhea is one of the most common medical complaints in any population. All practitioners seeing patients with the syndrome should have a working knowledge of: the common causes of illness; when to perform a microbiologic assessment; when to initiate empiric antimicrobial treatment; and when to use symptomatic therapy only.
Diarrhea in Adults - Digestive Disorders - Merck Manuals Consumer Version
Diarrhea is an increase in the volume, wateriness, or frequency of bowel movements. See also Diarrhea in Children. The frequency of bowel movements alone is not the defining feature of diarrhea. Some people normally move their bowels 3 to 5 times a day. Diarrhea is often accompanied by gas, cramping, an urgency to defecate, and, if the diarrhea is caused by an infectious organism or a toxic substance, nausea and vomiting. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and a loss of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and bicarbonate, from the blood. If large amounts of fluid and electrolytes are lost, the person feels weak, and blood pressure can drop enough to cause fainting syncope , heart rhythm abnormalities arrhythmias , and other serious disorders.
Going to the bathroom, having a bowel movement, pooping — no matter what you call it, stool is a regular part of your life. However, sometimes this process of getting waste out of your body changes. This is a very common condition and usually resolves without intervention. Diarrhea can happen for a wide variety of reasons and it usually goes away on its own in one to three days. When you have diarrhea, you may need to quickly run to the bathroom with urgency and this may happen more frequently than normal.
Patient information : See related handout on diarrhea , written by the authors of this article. Acute diarrhea in adults is a common problem encountered by family physicians. The most common etiology is viral gastroenteritis, a self-limited disease. Increases in travel, comorbidities, and foodborne illness lead to more bacteria-related cases of acute diarrhea.