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What is diarrhea ?

Diarrhea occurs when the body passes stool that is looser and more liquid-like than normal. These irregular bowel movements are due to one of two things: either more fluid is released into the intestines, or conversely, the intestines are instead struggling to absorb any liquid at all.

Acute vs. ChronicThere are two main types of diarrhea, acute and chronic.

Acute diarrhea is the most common form of diarrhea. It produces watery stool and does not last more than a few days. Most acute cases are caused by an infection (bacteria, viruses, or parasites) that attacks the gut. Other conditions may arise from non-infectious causes, where the problem develops due to medication or medical trauma.

Chronic diarrhea also produces inconsistent stool, but it lasts much longer. It is associated with certain conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The symptoms and effects of chronic diarrhea are often more severe than acute diarrhea.

SymptomsWhile the stool's consistency is the main point in assessing the condition, it is not the only characteristic of diarrhea. Often there is an increase in the frequency of bowel movements, as well as how much stool is produced per sitting. But these symptoms are often meaningless if the stool's consistency remains normal. Additional symptoms may include a greater urgency to use the bathroom, blood or mucus appearing in the stool, feelings of abdominal discomfort, and dehydration (which will significantly intensify the severity of the diarrhea).

Although infrequent, some cases of diarrhea may require hospitalization and can have severe effects on the body. Diarrheal disease is in fact the second leading cause of death in children under five years old, mainly due to dehydration.

PrevalenceThere is an average of two billion cases of diarrheal disease every year, and the typical adult will encounter an episode of diarrhea about four times a year. Diarrhea can occur at any age, and in most cases it is treatable and short-lived.

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