Diarrhea is very common condition that most people experience a few times in their lives. Clinically, diarrhea is defined as having loose or watery bowel movements that occur at a rate more frequent than normal. According to the American College of Gastroenterology (AGA), acute diarrhea is one of the most commonly reported illnesses in the United States. The AGA classifies diarrhea as acute if duration is less than 2 weeks, persistent if lasts 2-4 weeks and chronic if last longer than 4 weeks.

When to Seek Medical Care for Diarrhea in San Antonio, TX

Acute diarrhea is common and most causes are relatively benign. Most will clear on their own in 24-48 hours. The primary danger with diarrhea is the loss of large amounts of water and salts from the body and the potential damage this can cause. This risk is much higher in young kids, old people and people with chronic medical conditions (like diabetes and heart disease for example). It is recommended you seek medical help if you experience any of the following with your diarrhea:

  • If the diarrhea last more than 48 hours
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Rectal or abdominal pain
  • Bloody stool
  • Fever greater than 102 F
  • If you have recently taken antibiotics
  • If you are immunosuppressed

Diarrhea Treatments in San Antonio, TX

During the first 24-48 hours of diarrhea the goal is to keep hydrated and let it run its course. Drink electrolyte replacement fluids and bland down your diet. If the diarrhea persists past that it’s time to seek medical help. An initial work up for diarrhea will include studies like blood work to look for evidence of dehydration and infection and a complete set of stool studies. Stool studies consist of collecting a sample of your stool in a special container and dropping it of at the lab where a tech gets the incredibly fun job of testing it for various infectious organisms. If a specific infection is identified antibiotic therapy is directed towards it. If no infectious organism is found it is usually treated with a more broad spectrum gastrointestinal antimicrobial agent (a pill). If, despite all this, the diarrhea persists then it’s time for colonoscopy to evaluate the colon lining to look for other causes of chronic diarrhea like colitis (inflammation) and tumors.

What are the Common Causes of Diarrhea in San Antonio, TX

Normally we excrete a solid stool because the colons job is to absorb the fluid from our food and make our stool formed. However, when this absorption is disrupted and the fluid is not absorbed we are left with diarrhea. Below is a list of some of the most common things that do this:

  • Infectious organisms- usually cause acute or persistent diarrhea but rarely chronic
  • Medication reactions
  • Food allergies or food intolerance (lactose malabsorption for example)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Celiac disease
  • Microscopic colitis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s)
  • Colon cancer

Diarrhea Prevention Tips

While we typically wouldn’t think that someone else gave us diarrhea, many causes are spread from person-to-person. The following precautions can help to limit your chance of spreading or getting diarrhea:

  • Wash your hand when caring for children (they grow everything) and before & after handling food
  • Clean kitchen items that come in contact with raw meat
  • Use caution with what you eat or drink when traveling abroad
  • Unpasteurized milk and fruit juice should be avoided

Also, if you battle chronic intermittent diarrhea try to keep a food and symptom journal. Then we can go back over several weeks of time and see if we can find a pattern to help identify a trigger. If despite all this you still get diarrhea and it doesn’t go away, see your San Antonio, TX gastroenterologist as there is a lot we can do make it go away.