Persistent diarrhea should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Diarrhea refers to a bowel movement composed of loose watery stools. If you have diarrhea, you will likely suffer more frequent trips to the bathroom than usual. Persistent diarrhea should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
Most everyone knows what diarrhea looks like and feels like. Frequent loose or watery bowel movements are no fun. In a serious case of diarrhea, the symptoms you can expect include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stools
- Little or dark-colored urine
- Rectal pain
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If you experience any of these symptoms with diarrhea, make sure you get plenty of fluids and be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.
Causes of Diarrhea
There are many causes of diarrhea. Underlying them all is your body’s inability to absorb the water from food and fluid as they pass through your colon, which results in the loose, watery stools. This can be due to the type or quantity of food you eat or because of an illness in your digestive tract. Here are the most common causes of diarrhea:
- Bacteria or parasites from contaminated, spoiled or undercooked food (usually meats and dairy products)
- Contaminated water (often in a developing country)
- Viruses from unwashed surfaces or personal contact with infected individuals
- Antibiotics that indiscriminately kill bacteria, creating the possibility of infection
- Other medications, like some cancer drugs, blood pressure drugs and antacids
- Lactose intolerance
- Fructose intolerance
- Intolerance for certain artificial sweeteners
- Previous abdominal surgery, such as to remove your gallbladder
- Chronic digestive diseases such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, microscopic colitis, chronic pancreatitis or inflammatory bowel disease
Many other conditions may also cause diarrhea that need full evaluation by a gastroenterologist for appropriate workup.
If you’re experiencing persistent diarrhea, our doctors want to find out what’s causing it so they can treat it properly. When you come in for a visit to our offices they will perform a comprehensive physical and take a full history. If you’re taking any medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, please tell your doctor. If necessary, they will collect blood, urine and/or stool samples for further analysis and may prescribe certain diagnostic tests or procedures as needed. Your doctor may suggest a colonoscopy with biopsies in order to properly diagnose your condition and rule out other conditions. Other testing including upper endoscopy or imaging may required in certain cases as directed by your physician.
Your gastroenterologist will need to perform a full workup in order to arrive at a diagnosis for your diarrhea as there may be many potential causes. Only after a diagnosis is made can he or she prescribe an effective treatment regimen that addresses the underlying issue. These options may include treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, adjust of your medications, dietary modifications, treatment of infections diagnosed, medical therapy for microscopic colitis, etc. These are only a few of the possible therapies in addition to replacing lost fluid and electrolytes. Your gastroenterologist will customize a treatment plan for your symptoms once the diagnosis is well established.
Our doctors provide highly personalized and comprehensive care. For more information about the GI conditions we treat, including treatment & diagnosis of diarrhea, or to schedule a consultation please contact our NYC offices.Dr. Shawn Khodadadian has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.
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