Diarrhoea is a common condition in which regular passage of watery, loose and soft stools is seen, with or without abdominal cramps and bloating, pressure, gas and flatulence. Diarrhoea occurs due to a number of reasons like viral or bacterial infections, diseases or disorders in the intestines, parasites, food intolerance or even due to reactions to certain medications. Bloody, watery diarrhoea is called dysentery.
It is one of the most commonly occurring conditions and everyone, from infants to adults experience diarrhoea at some stage. On an average, an adult could have one episode of acute diarrhoea per year, and children could have two. Diarrhoea is classified as acute diarrhoea (diarrhoea that lasts for about three to five days) and chronic diarrhoea (symptoms of diarrhoea lasting for longer than fifteen days). The classification also depends upon the cause of diarrhoea. Diarrhea can be treated with simple medication and intake of plenty of fluids.
Diarrhoea is most common in developing countries, where sanitation is poor and water is not treated before consumption. World over, about 1.7 to 5 billion cases of diarrhea are seen every year, with about 1.26 million cases of death due to diarrhea that is untreated or that occurs as a symptom of a more serious disease.
In Myanmar diarrhea is a common ailment that is caused due to untreated water, poor sanitation conditions and in general, poorly maintained hygienic conditions.
Diarrhoea is caused by a number of conditions and diseases. They are –
- Viruses like rotavirus are one of the leading causes of diarrhoea in children, bacteria like salmonella, campylobacter, Escherichia coli and shigella, and parasites such as cryptosporidium and giardia lamblia can cause diarrhea.
- Certain medications like antibiotics can disturb the natural balance of bacteria in the intestines causing diarrhoea.
- Crohn’s disease, microscopic colitis, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome digestive disorders can cause chronic diarrhoea.
While diarrhoea is a symptom of a number of diseases itself, the following commonly found signs indicate diarrhoea disorders or infections –
- Loose, watery and soft stools that occur as frequently as three to four times in a time period of 8 hours.
- Cramps in the abdominal area
- Bloating of the stomach, gas and flatulence
- Blood in stool
When should I see the doctor?
Diarrhoea that persists for more than two days in adults requires medical consultation. If diarrhoea is accompanied with symptoms of dehydration like continuous feeling of thirst, severe weakness, dark, less or no urination, dry skin and mouth, dizziness, blood in stools, rectal or abdominal pain, and fever above 102 degree Fahrenheit, emergency medical assistance is required.
Children showing the above symptoms for more than 24 hours need immediate medical attention to avoid severe diarrhoea and dehydration.
Diagnosis of diarrhoea is usually done by the appearance of the stool and treatment is based on the type of diarrhoea (acute or chronic). Some cases of diarrhoea require no medication and treatment can be given at home. Doctors recommend drinking plenty of fluids like water and electrolyte replenishing beverages (ORS). The BRAT diet comprising of Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast can be given to treat diarrhoea.
If diarrhoea does not die down within 24 hours of home remedy, then medical assistance should be provided. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to kill any infection that has caused diarrhoea. In chronic cases of diarrhoea that causes acute dehydration, hospitalization and IV fluids could be prescribed.
For children and infants, doctor’s consultation is necessary as they could get dehydrated very fast. In any case, the same treatment and diet mentioned above should be encouraged.
Prognosis of the treatment of diarrhoea is generally excellent and symptoms generally wane after two to three days. However, in some cases diarrhoea can escalate to severe diarrhoea causing acute dehydration.
Prevention of Diarrhoea
Prevention of diarrhoea can be achieved by following simple precautions.
- Firstly, maintaining basic hygiene of washing hands regularly can keep diarrhoea at bay.
- Contamination of food and water should be avoided and consumption of leftover food should be avoided.