Diarrhea


What is diarrhea? Diarrhea is watery stool 4-5 times a day, sometimes contaminated with blood, puss, and mucus. Usually it is associated with pain or discomfort in the abdomen and/or rectum, the sensation of abdominal swelling, winds, and constant urges to defecate. However, it should be minded that the frequency of defecation is highly variable, normally ranging from 3 times daily to three times weekly. The mass and volume of stool depend upon nutrition, which may change, for example, when the proportion of vegetables in one's ration changes. The mere increase in stool mass or defecation frequency cannot be regarded as diarrhea. As to diarrhea, it may occur acutely and last for a few days or may be chronic, in the latter case, lasting for more than 3 weeks or relapsing periodically.

What is immediate cause of diarrhea?
Diarrhea results from imbalance of water release and reabsorption in the intestine. Intestinal epithelium actively absorbs water and transfers it into circulation, however, it is able to secrete water with intestinal juice. Diarrhea may be caused by impaired absorption or increased secretion of water.

What are the course and causes of acute diarrhea?
Acute diarrhea starts all of a sudden and lasts for a short time (usually a few days and not more than for 2-3 weeks). The disease may result from an acute intestinal infection, food poisoning, some medicinal drugs (antibiotics, laxatives, tranquilizers, antacids, cholinomimetics, antiarrhythmics, or anticoagulants), too much fruits and vegetables, alcohol abuse, or changes in feeding regimens. Acute diarrhea often happens during journeys or business trips because of changes in water quality, sanitary conditions, and eating patterns, local wines and spices, and, also, mental stresses.

How can one be protected from acute diarrhea?
Private hygiene is the must: wash your hands after lavatory and before meals and thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables. Do not consume spoiled or inadequately stored foodstuffs. During trips, use either boiled or bottled water for drinking, cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, or toothbrushing. Mind that meat, eggs, or water after inadequate thermal processing may cause infectious. Do not consume food cooked under overtly insanitary conditions. Do not drink unboiled milk.

Can one control diarrhea by him/herself?
In cases of diarrhea lasting for one day without abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, blood in stool, and/or fever, you may try to control it by yourself, except for the high risk group, i.e., children under 12 and elderly people who should be referred to medical specialist at once. Use antidiarrhetics but never antibiotics, which may be prescribed only by physician. Drink more water or, better, special electrolyte mixtures, which you can prepare by yourself (250 ml of orange or grapefruit juice, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of sugar) or buy at a pharmacy. Keep diet: do not eat fatty roasted meals and give preference to boiled or baked products. Appropriate foodstuffs include crackers, diluted soups, gruels, rissoles, soft-boiled eggs, and kissels and huckleberry, bird cherry, apple, or quince jelly. If you do not get better in one day, seek medical attention. Remember that diarrhea may be a symptom of such serious conditions as acute ileus, appendicitis, etc, where medical care is literally indispensable!

What is the clinical course of chronic diarrhea?
Symptoms of chronic diarrhea persist for more than three weeks or relapse exhibiting some degree of regularity.

What can cause chronic diarrhea?
In six out of ten cases, chronic diarrhea means functional diarrhea. Disturbances develop without obvious intestinal pathology, and exacerbations occur after mental stresses. In medicine, such condition is called irritated bowel syndrome. This type diarrhea may be a manifestation of dysbiosis (a disturbance in intestinal microflora), independent intestinal diseases (most often, stress-induced irritated bowel syndrome, nonspecific ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease, etc.), or infectious diseases (lambliosis and others). In some patients, diarrhea results from food allergy. In about 30% of population, diarrhea develops after fresh milk intake. Intolerance to other products (cereals, mushrooms, etc.) is much more rare.

When is it appropriate to seek medical attention in chronic diarrhea?
It is a must to seek medical advice if you never did it for this very reason before. When you know your diagnosis, reasons for concern arise where changes occur in the symptoms of your specific condition (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, blood and mucus in feces, increased frequency of urges for defecation, etc.) of general condition (reduced body weight and appetite, weakness, fatigue, etc.).
At LenMedCenter, you will be examined to find the exact causes of acute or chronic diarrhea. This is likely to require laboratory and instrumental diagnostics. Basing on your diagnosis, your doctor will select the appropriate treatment regimen and will follow you up over the whole treatment period.