When the passing of stools is more frequent, more watery and greater in volume, the condition is known as diarrhoea. It is a common digestive disorder mainly caused due to consumption of poor quality or unhygienic food. Diarrhoea is not a disease in itself, it is a temporary disorder. However, it can be a symptom of an underlying disorder.
Few symptoms that may help you to diagnose the disorder are:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- A healthy person may suffer from the infection due to intake of contaminated or unhygienic food or water, or poor sanitation mainly while travelling to remote places. It may last from a few hours to 10 days.
- Viral infection that may spread by personal contact in diseases like gastroenteritis.
- Intake of antibiotic drugs may cause diarrhoea if the drugs disturbs the normal balance of bacteria in the colon.
- A long standing inflammation in the intestine can cause intestinal disorders like ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, or some conditions in which the small intestine is unable to absorb nutrients. This can lead to diarrhoea.
- People suffering from HIV infections or AIDS have reduced immunity. Thus, they are more susceptible to infectious diseases like gastroenteritis, eventually resulting in diarrhoea.
- Lactose intolerance, a disorder in which lactose cannot be broken down and absorbed, can also cause diarrhoea.
- Infections like giardiasis and amoebiasis, which are caused by protozoan parasites can be responsible for persistent diarrhoea. You may experience abnormal contractions of the intestine when you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, and this may cause alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhoea.
How to prevent dehydration?
- The body functions properly when the body’s salt and water content are maintained at a constant level. When you suffer from diarrhoea, the body loses large amount of water and salt, and you may suffer from dehydration. Dehydration is generally common among babies, children and elderly people. Follow simple measures mentioned below to prevent dehydration:
- Drink plenty of fluids every one to two hours, till the symptoms last. Fluids like orange juice, weak sweet tea or rehydration solution can help you recover quickly during dehydration.
- Avoid heat or being under the sun. Try to keep yourself cool to prevent loss of body fluids and salts in the form of sweat.
- Milk can aggravate the problem. But, if a breast-feeding baby is affected, continue to breast-feed. Also, feed the baby additional fluids to prevent dehydration.
Normally the infection is cured within two days. However, if it lasts longer than three to four days, you should see your doctor before it gets too late. The doctor may ask you to submit a sample of faeces to look for evidence of the infection. If the infection lasts for three to four weeks or if there is blood in faeces, you may have to undergo investigations like contrast X-rays of the intestines, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
The treatment for diarrhoea depends on the underlying cause. Your doctor may prescribe you an anti-diarrhoeal drug like loperamide. However, anti-diarrhoeal drugs should be avoided if the diarrhoea is due to infection, as they may prolong the infection. Antibiotics are only needed to treat persistent diarrhoea that has a bacterial cause.