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Find an ACG member gastroenterologist with a specialized interest in liver disease. Acute diarrhea is one of the most commonly reported illnesses in the United States, second only to respiratory infections. Worldwide, it is a leading cause of mortality Acute diarrhea in adults children younger than four years old, especially in the developing world. Diarrhea that lasts less than 2 weeks is termed acute diarrhea.

Persistent diarrhea lasts between 2 and 4 weeks. Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than 4 weeks. Diarrheal stools are those that take shape of the container, so they are often Acute diarrhea in adults as loose or watery. Some people consider diarrhea as an increase in the number of stools, but stool consistency is really the hallmark.

Associated symptoms can include abdominal cramps fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and urgency. Chronic diarrhea can be accompanied by weight loss, malnutrition, abdominal pain or other symptoms of the underling illness. Clues for organic disease are weight loss, diarrhea that wakes you up at night, or blood in the stools.

These are signs that your doctor will want to do a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of your symptoms. Also tell your doctor if you have a family history of celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease IBDhave Acute diarrhea in adults weight loss, fever, abdominal cramping or decreased appetite. Tell your doctor if you experience bulky, greasy or very bad smelling stools. Most cases of acute, watery diarrhea are caused by viruses viral gastroenteritis.

Chronic diarrhea is classified as fatty or malabsorption, inflammatory or most commonly watery. Chronic bloody diarrhea may be due to inflammatory bowel disease IBDwhich is ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

Other less common causes include ischemia of the gut, infections, radiation therapy and colon cancer or polyps. Infections leading to chronic diarrhea are uncommon, with the exception of parasites. The two major causes of fatty or malabsorptive diarrhea are impaired digestion of fats due to low pancreatic enzyme levels and impaired absorption of fats due to small bowel disease.

These conditions interfere with the Acute diarrhea in adults processing of fats in the diet. The former is usually due to chronic pancreatitis which is a result of chronic injury to the pancreas. Alcohol damage to the pancreas is the most common cause of chronic pancreatitis in the United States. Other causes of chronic pancreatitis include cystic fibrosis, hereditary pancreatitis, trauma to the pancreas and pancreatic cancer.

The most common small bowel disease in the U. There are many causes of watery diarrhea, including carbohydrate malabsorption such as lactose, sorbitol, and fructose intolerance. Symptoms of abdominal bloating and excessive gas after consuming dairy products suggests lactose intolerance.

This condition is more common in African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Certain soft drinks, juices, dried fruits and gums contain sorbitol and fructose, which can lead to watery diarrhea in people Acute diarrhea in adults sorbitol and fructose intolerance. Diarrhea Acute diarrhea in adults a frequent Acute diarrhea in adults effect of antibiotics.

Certain other medications such as NSAIDs, antacids, antihypertensives, antibiotics and antiarrhythmics can have side effects leading to diarrhea. Parasitic intestinal infections such as giardiasis can cause chronic diarrhea. Diabetes mellitus may be associated with diarrhea due to nerve damage and bacterial overgrowth; this occurs mainly in patients with long-standing, poorly-controlled diabetes.

Irritable bowel syndrome IBS is a condition often associated with diarrhea, constipation or more frequently alternating diarrhea and constipation. Other common symptoms are bloating, abdominal pain relieved with defecation and a sense of incomplete evacuation. Exposure Acute diarrhea in adults infectious agents is the major risk factor for acute diarrhea. Bacteria and viruses are often transmitted by the fecal-oral route, so hand washing and hygiene are important to prevent infection.

Soap and water are better because alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not kill viruses. Medications such as antibiotics and drugs that contain magnesium products are also common offenders. Recent dietary changes can also lead Acute diarrhea in adults acute diarrhea. These including intake of coffee, tea, colas, dietetic foods, gums or mints that contain poorly absorbable sugars.

Acute bloody Acute diarrhea in adults suggests a bacterial cause like Campylobacter, Salmonella or Shigella or Shiga-toxin E. The best method of prevention is to avoid eating and drinking contaminated or raw foods and beverages. Most episodes of acute diarrhea resolve quickly without antibiotic therapy and with simple dietary modifications.

See a doctor if you feel ill, have bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain or diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours. In patients with mild acute diarrhea, no laboratory evaluation is Acute diarrhea in adults because the illness generally resolves quickly. Your doctor may perform stool tests for Acute diarrhea in adults and parasites if your diarrhea Acute diarrhea in adults severe or bloody or if you traveled to an area where infections are common.

If Acute diarrhea in adults have severe diarrhea, blood tests will be helpful to guide replacement of fluid and electrolytes and minerals such as magnesium, potassium Acute diarrhea in adults zinc that can become depleted. If you have chronic diarrhea, your doctor will want to further assess etiologic factors or complications of diarrhea by obtaining several tests. These can include a blood count to look for anemia and infections, an electrolyte and kidney function panel to assess for electrolyte abnormalities and renal insufficiency, and albumin to assess your nutritional status.

A stool sample may help define the type of diarrhea. The presence of fat, microscopic amounts of blood, and white blood cells will help determine if a fatty, inflammatory, or watery diarrhea is present.

Endoscopic examination of the colon with flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy and upper endoscopy are Acute diarrhea in adults in detecting the etiology of chronic diarrhea, as this allows direct examination of the bowel mucosa and the ability to obtain biopsies for microscopic evaluation.

Double-balloon enteroscopy and capsule endoscopy are sometimes used to examine the mucosa of the small intestine that lies beyond the reach of conventional endoscopes. Radiographic studies such as an upper GI series or barium enema are not routinely performed in Acute diarrhea in adults evaluation of Acute diarrhea in adults diarrhea, and have largely been replaced by cross-sectional imaging.

Ultrasound and CT scan of the abdomen can be helpful to evaluate the bowel, pancreas and other intra-abdominal organs. It is important to take plenty of fluid with sugar and salt to avoid dehydration.

Salt and sugar together in a beverage help your intestine absorb fluids. Milk and dairy products should be avoided for 24 to 48 hours as they can make diarrhea worse.

Initial dietary choices when refeeding should begin with soups and broth. Anti-diarrheal drug therapy can be helpful to control severe symptoms, and includes bismuth subsalicylate and antimotility agents such Acute diarrhea in adults loperamide. These, however, should be avoided in people with high fever or bloody diarrhea as they can worsen severe colon infections and in children because the use of anti-diarrheals can lead to complications of hemolytic uremic syndrome in cases of Shiga-toxin E.

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have high fever, dysentery, or moderate to severe traveler's diarrhea. Some infections such as Shigella always require antibiotic therapy. Treatment of chronic diarrhea depends on the etiology of the chronic diarrhea. Often, empiric treatment can be provided for symptomatic relief, when a specific diagnosis is not reached, or when a diagnosis that is not specifically treatable Acute diarrhea in adults reached.

Antimotility agents such as loperamide are the most effective agents for the treatment of chronic diarrhea. They reduce symptoms as well as stool weight. Attention should be paid to replacing any mineral and vitamin deficiencies, especially calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Updated April Updated December Brochures Digestive Health Insights.

GI Health Centers. Digestive Health Topics. GI Procedures. Basics Resources Overview Acute diarrhea is one of the most commonly reported illnesses in the United States, second only to respiratory Acute diarrhea in adults. Symptoms Diarrheal stools are those that take shape of the container, so they are often described as loose or watery.

Causes — Acute Diarrhea Most cases of acute, watery diarrhea are caused by viruses viral gastroenteritis. Causes — Chronic Diarrhea Chronic diarrhea is classified as Sexy thick juicy thighs or malabsorption, inflammatory or most commonly watery. Risk Factors Exposure to infectious agents is the major risk factor for acute diarrhea.

Treating Acute Diarrhea It is important to take plenty of fluid with sugar and salt to avoid dehydration. Return to Top. Advancing gastroenterology, improving patient care. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Ok Cookie policy.


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