• When Does Diarrhea Warrant Medical Intervention?

    on Feb 12th, 2019

We rarely think of diarrhea as a medical emergency, and most of the time it’s not. Stress, trying a new food, getting a virus, or drinking bad water on vacation can all cause watery stools for a day or two.

Sometimes, however, diarrhea is related to an underlying medical condition that requires medical intervention. And no matter what’s causing your loose stools, ignoring diarrhea for too long can cause dehydration, and that can quickly become a medical emergency.

The medical experts at GastroMed in Miami, Florida, specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect your gastrointestinal tract, including diarrhea. Read on to find out what causes diarrhea and when it’s time to consider medical intervention.

Acute vs. chronic diarrhea

Acute diarrhea comes on suddenly and may be related to a stomach virus, a bacterial infection, a food sensitivity, a reaction to a medication, or a multitude of other temporary conditions.

Acute diarrhea often resolves once the cause works its way through your system. A stomach virus, for instance, will typically affect your system 2-3 days. Your diarrhea should resolve as the virus runs its course.

Chronic or long-term diarrhea is often a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as:

Diabetes, thyroid disorders, and other medical issues not necessarily originating in your digestive system can also cause persistently loose stools.   

When should I see a doctor for my diarrhea?

It’s often best to let your symptoms be your guide when you’re wondering whether your diarrhea needs medical intervention.

For instance, regardless of whether it’s acute or chronic, diarrhea can cause dehydration. Young children and the elderly are especially at risk for dehydration, but it can affect anyone at any age. Dehydration can cause kidney failure and quickly become life-threatening. You should seek medical care whenever dehydration is a concern.

Symptoms of dehydration in children and infants include:

In adults, dehydration may cause:

Other symptoms that may indicate your diarrhea requires medical intervention include:

Also, be wary of diarrhea that occurs within weeks of completing a round of antibiotics. This may indicate a clostridium difficile infection, which is contagious, can cause 10-15 diarrheal stools daily, and can result in colitis.

If your diarrhea seems like more than a temporary bug, book an appointment online or over the phone with GastroMed today.

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