Diarrhea refers to an increase in the rate of bowel movements from the body or may be reduction in the form of stools (looseness of stool). Even though these changes in the frequency of stool movements and looseness of bowels might vary independently from each other, changes occur often in both. Causes of diarrhea can be many; diarrhea has to be distinguished from few other conditions. Even though these four conditions accompany diarrhea, they all have different causes and dissimilar treatments than that of diarrhea. The conditions are like incontinence of stool that is inability to control the stool movements.
The other condition is rectal urgency where one feels a sudden urge to pass the stools which is very strong that if a toilet is not available immediately there may be incontinence. Then there is incomplete evacuation that is a sensation of another bowel movement immediately after passing of the stools yet there will difficulty in passing the stool further. The fourth condition is bowel movements soon after having meals.
Diarrhea is defined two terms one is absolute and other is relative term which is based on either the looseness of stools or frequency of the bowel movements.
Absolute diarrhea means having bowel movements more than usual since among the healthy individuals the number of maximum daily bowel movements is around three; diarrhea can be stated as number of stools higher than three. Whereas relative diarrhea has more than normal bowel movements .Therefore if any individual usually having one bowel movement daily begins to have more than one bowel movements daily, then diarrhea is present, even if there are less than three bowel movements daily, that means, there is no absolute diarrhea.
Absolute diarrhea is quiet difficult to be defined depending on the consistency of the stools since the consistency of stools may vary from individual to individual considerably on the basis of their diets. Therefore, people who eat ample amounts of vegetables have looser stools than those individuals who eat lesser amount of vegetables. Stools that are watery or liquid are always unusual and are considered diarrheal. Therefore relative diarrhea is much easier to define depending on the consistency of bowels .Thus, a person who produces looser stools than normal has diarrhea even if the bowels may be within the normal range with respect to the consistency.
Causes of Diarrhea
Various viral infections cause many cases of diarrhea. They are normally associated with moderate to mild symptoms with recurrent, watery bowel movements, a low-grade fever and abdominal cramps. Diarrhea in general lasts around 4 to 7 days.
Following are few common causes of diarrhea due to viral infections:
- Rotavirus is one of the common sources of diarrhea in babies.
- Nor virus is the most ordinary cause of diarrhea in adults and mostly in school age children.
- Adenovirus infections of diarrhea are common in almost all age groups.
Bacterial infections are another cause and it is more serious case of diarrhea. Normally, infection due bacteria occur from unhygienic foods or drinks or due to food poisoning. Bacterial infections even cause extremely severe symptoms, like vomiting, severe abdominal cramps or pain and fever. Bowel movements occur recurrently and possibly will be watery.
Following are few examples that are causes of diarrhea due to bacterial infections:
- In more severe cases, the stool might contain pus, mucus, or blood. Many of these infections are linked with the local outbreaks of disease.
- Foreign travel is one of the common ways to contract diarrhea.
Parasites cause infection to the digestive system with the help of contaminated water. Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium and Entamoeba histolytica are few common parasitic causes of diarrhea.
Intestinal disorders or diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and celiac disease can cause diarrhea.
Reaction to certain medications can cause diarrhea. Common medications include antibiotics, blood pressure medications, cancer drugs, and antacids (especially ones containing magnesium).
Intolerance to foods such as artificial sweeteners and lactose (the sugar found in milk) can cause diarrhea.