Diarrhea is a common condition that is characterized by loose or watery stool and a feeling that one has to use the restroom immediately. It usually is harmless and only occurs for up to a few days, but can become an issue when coupled with chronic medical conditions. The average person gets diarrhea occasionally due to a variety of reasons, but it can be a sign of other existing health problems, especially when it is long-lasting, severe, or both. Diarrhea can often cause the following symptoms:

  • Bloating in the stomach
  • Cramping in the stomach
  • Loose, or watery stools
  • An urgent need to visit the restroom

Less commonly, diarrhea can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or in severe cases, blood or mucus in the stool. Chronic or acute diarrhea can also cause unintended weight loss or fever.

As previously mentioned, diarrhea can be a symptom of a number of existing medical conditions, especially those that are related to the gastrointestinal tract. Some common causes of diarrhea include:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Food allergies, such as lactose intolerance
  • Food poisoning
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Bacterial infection
  • Viral infection
  • A side effect of medication
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Certain cancers, especially in the digestive system

After diarrhea, it is common for patients to experience constipation or lack of bowel movements. This is especially common for those who suffer from IBS. Those who suffer from IBS and other gastrointestinal conditions are also more susceptible to experiencing diarrhea from eating certain foods or traveling to a place that has bacteria they aren’t used to.

While diarrhea is known for being very common, it can also be dangerous if chronic or severe. There are some important signs to pay attention to in order to know if it will pass, or if a physician should be contacted:

  • Diarrhea lasts more than two days
  • Signs of dehydration: extreme thirst, dry mouth, dark urine, limited urine, or severe fatigue
  • Black or bloody stool
  • Fever of 102 degrees or higher
  • Pain near rectum or anus
  • Recent travel to a foreign country

Mild or occasional diarrhea is not typically cause for concern, but the symptoms that it causes, such as dehydration, can be dangerous. Pay close attention to the signs listed above, and seek medical attention immediately if they become evident.

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