Diarrhea is a common occurrence when suffering from a viral attack, a bacterial attack, food poisoning or having an allergic reaction to food or drink. Any person experiencing loose, watery stools, at least, three to four times a day, for longer than 2 days, has chronic diarrhea. Most often, infections are not the only reason for diarrhea, as certain bowel disorders can also cause diarrhea. Diarrhea is often accompanied with stomach cramps, abdominal pain, and in cases of infection, fever. Dehydration is one of the key problems with short-term or long-term diarrhea. Diarrhea that lasts for more than 2 days requires medical attention.
Causes of Constant Diarrhea
Various factors contribute to the onset of constant diarrhea. These include infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. However, these are not the only causes. Below are some of the main causes of constant diarrhea.
- Infections - Bacteria, such as, salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter, residing in contaminated foods and water, are common culprits that cause chronic diarrhea. Viral infections also can cause diarrhea. The herpes simplex virus, viral hepatitis, and the norovirus can cause chronic diarrhea.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Chronic diarrhea is a common symptom of IBS. Stress and certain foods trigger this condition. Currently, there is no cure for IBS, although identifying the stressors and triggers of IBS may help deal with the frequency of the occurrences.
- Food Intolerances - Some people may experience constant diarrhea due to their inability to digest certain ingredients in foods. For example, persons who are lactose intolerant often suffer with diarrhea once they have consumed milk or other dairy products. Other types of food intolerances that cause diarrhea are reactions to certain types of foods, medicines and fructose.
- Intestinal Diseases - There are a number of intestinal diseases that cause constant diarrhea. These diseases include inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and gallbladder disease.
- Others - Other causes of constant diarrhea include tumors, altered immune function, low blood supply to the intestine and hereditary disorders, such as, cystic fibrosis
How to Treat Constant Diarrhea
Recurring diarrhea is extremely dangerous as it can lead to dehydration, and also weaken a person significantly. Most of the body's sodium, potassium, salts, and chlorides, are excreted from the body when suffering with diarrhea. Lack of these minerals can interfere with the normal working of the body. Therefore, constant diarrhea has to be treated promptly. The treatment method depends on the cause of diarrhea. For example, diarrhea that occurs due to a bacterial and parasitic infection requires strong antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs. People suffering from diarrhea due to food intolerances should identify foods that do not agree with them and refrain from consuming these foods as much as possible. Diarrhea that occurs with intestinal diseases often, disappear upon the treatment of the condition. Apart from the above treatment methods, people suffering with constant diarrhea should remember to stay hydrated as much as possible by drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding eating heavy meals till the problem is attended to, and reducing stress. Those who have become dehydrated may need saline drips to rehydrate the system.
When to See a Doctor
Most people tend to wait till dehydration sets in and the problem has escalated before considering medical advice. Understanding when to see a doctor can be beneficial in preventing various complications that may arise with constant diarrhea. Dehydration can cause symptoms that include frequent thirst, dark urine, dry skin, fatigue and dizziness in adults. Children with constant diarrhea that leads to dehydration show signs of fatigue, irritability, crying without tears and sunken eyes. A doctor must be consulted, without fail, if any of these signs are apparent. Apart from this, diarrhea for more than 2 days, unbearable pain in the abdomen and rectum, high fever, blood in stools and dark stools require medical attention.