If you find yourself experiencing persistent bouts of diarrhea, it may be time to visit your gastroenterologist. Diarrhea is a common gastrointestinal disorder that can cause discomfort and dehydration if left untreated.
What Causes Diarrhea?
A variety of factors, such as infections, food allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome can cause diarrhea. Infections are typically caused by bacteria or viruses that affect the digestive system and can spread through contaminated water or food. Food allergies, on the other hand, may be triggered by certain foods and drinks. Finally, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a disorder of the large intestine that can cause abdominal pain and alternating constipation, and diarrhea.
Long-Term Symptoms of Diarrhea
Left untreated, diarrhea can cause several long-term symptoms, such as dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, and weight loss. Dehydration can lead to low blood pressure and dizziness, while the lack of essential nutrients may weaken the immune system. In extreme cases, chronic diarrhea can also cause anemia due to blood loss in the stool.
Your gastroenterologist can diagnose the cause of your diarrhea through a physical exam, laboratory tests, and imaging. A comprehensive stool analysis can help reveal the presence of bacteria or parasites, while imaging tests such as an X-ray may be necessary to identify any blockages in the digestive system. Your gastroenterologist may also order blood tests to check for nutrient deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances.
How Is Diarrhea Treated?
The treatment for diarrhea depends on its underlying cause. For bacterial infections, antibiotics may be prescribed to help kill off the bacteria. Allergies are typically managed through changes in diet and lifestyle. Irritable bowel syndrome may require medications to nullify diarrhea symptoms or change the bacteria levels in the large intestine.
If left untreated, diarrhea can lead to serious complications and even death. If you experience persistent bouts of diarrhea, it is important to get checked by your gastroenterologist as soon as possible. Your gastroenterologist can diagnose the cause of your diarrhea and develop an effective treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
We understand that dealing with diarrhea can be uncomfortable, so to help answer some of the questions you may have about this condition, we’ve outlined below a few frequently asked questions.
Q: How long does diarrhea last?
A: Diarrhea typically lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on its cause and how it is managed.
Q: Is diarrhea contagious?
A: Yes, certain types of diarrhea can be contagious if caused by a virus or bacteria. It is essential to practice good hygiene and avoid contact with those who may have the infection.
Q: How do I prevent dehydration from diarrhea?
A: It is important to drink plenty of fluids when experiencing diarrhea. Your doctor may also suggest taking oral electrolytes or sports drinks to replenish your body’s water and electrolyte levels.
Q: Is there a cure for diarrhea?
A: Yes, treating the underlying cause of your diarrhea will help manage symptoms. However, some digestive disorders may require long-term management. It is best to talk to your doctor about the best course of action for you.
Q: What should I eat when I have diarrhea?
A: Eating bland foods such as plain white rice, toast, and bananas can help provide relief from diarrhea. Your doctor may also recommend avoiding dairy products, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and processed sugars until your symptoms subside.
At Allied Digestive, we are dedicated to providing compassionate care for all of our patients. If you or a loved one is experiencing diarrhea, our experienced gastroenterologists are here to help. Please schedule an appointment at our practice today by calling 832.912.4481 or fill out the form on this page.