Diarrhea and Dehydration


Types of diarrhea
Causes & Symptoms
Treatment & Preventation


Signs & Symptoms
Preventation of dehydration When to Call the Doctor

Antibiotics used to treat diarrhea caused by specific illness

For Cholera
For Shigella dysentery

Diarrhea is an increase in the frequency of bowel movements or a decrease in the form of stool (greater looseness of stool). Although changes in frequency of bowel movements and looseness of stools can vary independently of each other, changes usually occur in both.
Diarrhea needs to be distinguished from four other conditions that can be confused with diarrhea. Although these conditions may accompany diarrhea, they often have different causes and different treatments than diarrhea.

These other conditions are:
  • Incontinence of stool: which is the inability to control (delay) bowel movements until an appropriate time, i.e., until one can get to the toilet.
  • Rectal urgency: which is a sudden urge to have a bowel movement that is so strong that if a toilet is not immediately available there will be incontinence.
  • Incomplete evacuation: which is a sensation that another bowel movement is necessary soon after a bowel movement, yet there is difficulty passing further stool the second time.
  • Bowel movements: immediately after eating a meal.

Diarrhea Classification

Types of Diarrhea:
Acute diarrhea:
This may be defined as diarrhea that lasts less than 4 weeks, and is also called enteritis.
This can nearly always be presumed to be infective, although only in a minority of cases is this formally proven. The most common causes of acute diarrhea are infections.
With cases of acute diarrhea, it is often reasonable to reassure a patient, ensure adequate fluid intake, and wait and see. In more severe cases, or where it is important to find the cause of the illness, stool cultures are instituted.

The most common organisms found are:
  • Bacterial:
    • Campylobacter (an organism of animal origin)
    • Salmonella (also often of animal origin)
    • Cryptosporidium (animal origin)
    • Giardia lamblia (lives in drinking water).
    • Shigella (dysentery) is less common, and usually human in origin.
    • Cholera is rare in Western countries, It is more common in travelers and is usually related to contaminated water (its ultimate source is probably sea water).
    • Escherichia coli is probably a very common cause of diarrhea, especially in travelers, but it can be difficult to detect using current technology. The types of E. coli vary from area to area and country to country.
  • Viruses:
    • Particularly
      rotavirus 'Rotavirus is a genus of double-stranded RNA virus in the family Reoviridae. It is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children. '
       (Viral diarrhea is probably over-diagnosed by non-doctors).
    • The
      Norwalk virus'Norovirus (was Norwalk-like viruses) an RNA virus of the Caliciviridae taxonomic family, causes approximately 90% of epidemic non-bacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the world, it affects people of all ages. The viruses are transmitted by faecally contaminated food or water and by person-to-person contact. '
       is rare.
  • Toxins and food poisoning can cause diarrhea:
    • These include staphylococcal toxin (often from milk products due to an infected wound in workers)
    • Bacillus cereus'Bacillus cereus is an endemic, soil-dwelling, Gram-positive, rod-shaped, beta hemolytic bacteria that causes foodborne illness. '
  • Parasites and worms sometime cause diarrhea but are often accompanied by weight loss, irritability, rashes or anal itching:
    • The most common is pinworm (mostly a nuisance rather than a severe medical illness).
    • Other worms, such as hookworm, ascaria, and tapeworm are more medically significant and may cause weight loss,anemia, general unwellness and allergy problems.
    • Amoebic dysentery due to Entamoeba histolytica is an important cause of bloody diarrhea in travelers(
      Traveler's diarrhea'Travelers from temperate regions of the world frequently experience diarrhea four days to two weeks after arriving in certain areas of the world. It requires appropriate and complete medical treatment. ')
  • Food poisoning is really Salmonella infection. Diarrhea can also be caused by ingesting foods that contain indigestible material, for instance, escolar and olestra.
  • Medications: Medications are a frequent and often over-looked cause, especially antibiotics and antacids.
  • Less often, various sugar free foods, which sometimes contain poorly absorbable materials, cause diarrhea.

Chronic diarrhea:
Chronic diarrhea is frequently due to many of the same things that cause the shorter episodes (infections, medications, etc.); symptoms just last longer. Some infections can become chronic. This occurs mainly with parasitic infections (such as Giardia) or when patients have altered immunity (AIDS).

The following are the more usual causes of chronic diarrhea: