Diarrhea is a common condition which describes loose and watery bowel movements. Most people will get diarrhea a few times a year, and in general it is not a very serious condition. Diarrhea will usually only last two to three days, and if needed can often be treated with over the counter medications. However, in some cases diarrhea may be a symptom of more severe gastrointestinal issues and may require the attention of your local gastroenterologist.
Most people will recognize the symptoms of diarrhea, which can include frequent bowel movements, loose and watery stool, pain and cramping in the abdomen, fever, bloating, and blood in the stool. Although most cases of Diarrhea do not require a doctor’s visit, you should visit a doctor if your symptoms persist beyond a few days, you become dehydrated, you’re experiencing severe abdominal pain, or you have bloody or black stools.
Diarrhea occurs when foods and liquids pass too quickly into the colon. Diseases and conditions which can cause this include viruses, bacteria in food or water, lactose intolerance, fructose and artificial sweeteners, and certain medications. Chronic diarrhea can also be caused by more severe medical issues such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, alcohol abuse, microscopic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.
When it comes to treating diarrhea, in many cases medical attention may not be needed. Most cases should pass within a few days. However, if your condition doesn’t resolve itself within a day or two, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help combat bacteria causing your diarrhea. Your doctor is also likely to suggest methods to help you prevent dehydration, which can be caused by diarrhea.
If your diarrhea is severe and long-lasting, your doctor will probably refer you to a gastroenterologist to examine for underlying conditions. A gastroenterologist is likely to perform a physical exam as well as tests including blood and stool tests to begin the diagnostic process. When you visit your local gastroenterologist, you should be prepared to discuss any current medication you may be taking, as well as any supplements or other unusual dietary habits.
Fortunately, most cases of diarrhea can be prevented by following a few simple lifestyle changes. You can prevent many cases of viral and bacterial diarrhea simply by being extra careful about washing your hands before eating and selecting foods that you’re sure have been prepared to high standards of sanitation. You can also work to further improve your overall gastrointestinal health by avoiding too many processed foods, eating a healthy diet including fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding smoking, and moderating your alcohol intake.
If you’re suffering from diarrhea that is severe and long lasting, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you’re local to the DFW region, the team at Arlington Gastroenterology Services can help. We treat patients across the DFW region in cities like Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Austin, and more.