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Acute and Chronic Diarrhea


Diarrhea: a common condition

Almost everyone has been hit by an episode of acute diarrhea at least once in their lifetime, sometimes even without any apparent cause. This is a common problem that usually lasts for 1 or 2 days and then resolves on its own without complications and without the need of any specific treatment. However, diarrhea lasting for more than 2 days can lead to serious dehydration and therefore always require medical attention. 


Both acute and persistent diarrhea are characterized by the repeated evacuation (more than 3 times a day) of loose, watery stools, usually accompanied by abdominal cramps or pain, bloating and sometimes fever and blood in the stool.  


Multi underlying causes

Diarrhea is not a medical condition by itself. Rather it is always a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as a viral, bacterial or parasitic infection (which generally causes acute diarrhea) or a chronic diseases affecting the intestine, such as Crohn's disease and celiac disease (which are generally responsible for persistent or chronic diarrhea). Other common causes of diarrhea include the prolonged use of antibiotics or other medications, as well as food intolerances, for example to artificial sweeteners or lactose (a sugar found in milk).


Regardless of the cause and duration, patients affected by diarrhea should always visit the doctor if diarrhea is accompanied by severe abdominal pain, sings of dehydration, high fever and blood in the stool. In addition, other conditions requiring medical attention are diarrhea lasting for more than 3 days in adult patients or more than 1 day in children (which are particularly prone to dehydration). 


Treatment* for Diarrhea

As already suggested, acute diarrhea often clears on its own in a couple of days without any specific treatment. However the doctor may prescribe antibiotics (when diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection) and/or a specific therapy to replace the water and salts lost from the body during diarrhea. Contrary to what many people think, over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications are not always helpful, especially when diarrhea is caused by bacterial or parasitic infections. That's why, before taking any of these medications, it is always advisable to consult with the doctor.


The most effective therapy for chronic diarrhea relies on the treatment of the underlying medical condition (Crohn's disease, celiac disease and others). However, when diarrhea due to these conditions is accompanied by signs of dehydration, a replacement therapy (water and salts) is always needed.  


The benefits of water and fiber diet when suffering from Diarrhea

Finally, drinking plenty of water and avoiding dairy products, high-fiber foods and fatty foods for a few days, are effective home remedies that can help prevent dehydration in both acute and chronic diarrhea.



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*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.