Diarrhea is a pathological condition characterized by an increased frequency of bowel movements. As for the frequency of bowel movements, it should depend on the age of the person. Therefore, for adults the frequency of bowel emptying can vary from once in two days to twice a day.
There are other standards if we’re speaking about children. For children who are over four years old, the number of bowel movements can vary from three to fourteen times per week. For children up to three years old it is considered to be normal to pass stools from four to twenty-one times per week.
The number of bowel movements for children younger than a year is quite different. Infants up to 3 months should pass from 5 to 40 stools per week. This is normal for infants, who are breastfed. Infants who are, so to say, bottle-fed have other standards – they should pass from 5 to 20 stools. Here we’re also talking about stools per week. Children over 6 months and up to 1 years old feel well when defecation takes place not less than 5 and not more than 28 times per week.
Diarrhea develops as a result of dysfunction of the intestinal tract. It intensifies its vermicular movement; absorption of water in the colon is disrupted; the intestinal wall exudes a significant amount of inflammatory secretion, or the so-called transsudate.
Changes that occur in the body due to diarrhea are quite dangerous. They include general dehydration and vitamin deficiency, as well as significant loss of micronutrients.
Diarrhea is usually caused due to bacterial or viral infection and food poisoning. Bacteria which often provoke diarrhea include Salmonella and Escherichiacoli. Among the viruses which become the cause of diarrhea are hepatitis and herpes simplex. Some medicines, such as antibiotics, may also provoke diarrhea.
In many cases, diarrhea is a symptom of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases. Diarrhea may occur under the influence of fear or anxiety. This is a so-called neurogenic diarrhea.
Diarrhea may be acute (2-3 weeks) or chronic (over three weeks).
The main symptoms of diarrhea are considered to be an increased number of bowel movements and their watery consistency. The amount of the water in the stool may reach more than 90%.
Diarrhea may be accompanied by pain in the abdomen and bloating, rumbling, the feeling of presence of water in the gut. False urges to defecation, or, as they are called, tenesmus – is another symptom of diarrhea.
In some cases, diarrhea may be accompanied by fever, and a dry mouth, thirst, rapid breathing, or rare urination.
The nature of bowel movements depends mainly on the disease which was the cause of diarrhea. Feces can be mushy, runny, watery, or foamy. It may be mixed with mucus or blood.
The basis of diagnostics of diarrhea is a history of the disease and examination of the patient. First of all, the doctor should ask questions about the symptoms, their first occurrence, stool frequency, and its consistency. In some cases proctologic inspection is necessary.
The next phase is laboratory tests. These include blood, stool and urine tests. Dysfunctions in the hormonal system are determined by measuring the levels of hormones in the blood.
Particular attention is paid to the analysis of feces. Bacteriological inoculation, the analysis on helminth eggs, coprogram are required. Another method of diagnosis is intestinal fluoroscopy.
There are also various types of endoscopic techniques. These are barium enema, gastroscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy. In order to conduct further research and give a specific diagnosis, biopsy sampling may be required during endoscopy.
To determine the amount of bacteria in the small intestine, the so-called hydrogen breath test may be used.
A comprehensive study of the digestive tract will help make a more accurate diagnosis and assign an appropriate treatment therapy. Therefore, another method of diagnostics is ultrasound of the abdomen.
Food hygiene and the overall hygiene of the body are considered to be effective in prevention of diarrhea.
Careful preparation of products, sufficient cooking of products and keeping cutlery clean contribute to the avoidance of intestinal infections and food poisoning. It is necessary to avoid the temptation of trying unfamiliar food or the food you’re allergic to.
Another preventive measure is considered to be the limiting of raw water usage. It is necessary to use cleaned and filtered water.
Washing hands regularly, as well as timely cleaning of the premises, bathroom and toilet disinfection, having individual bed linen and towels are also considered to be effective preventive measures which hinder the spread of diseases that cause diarrhea.
Regular examination of the digestive system is desirable. These preventive measures help to hinder the development of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract provoking diarrhea.
Knowing the type of diarrhea influences the selection of therapy for the treatment of this pathology. Antibiotic therapy, as well as adequate food diet is among the main methods of treatment.
It is recommended to avoid certain foods. These include fatty foods, milk, yogurt, and cream. Some vegetables should also be avoided. These are beets, cucumbers, radishes, and beans. One should not eat plums and grapes during diarrhea. Desserts, coffee, fruit juices, spices, different sauces, as well as alcohol should be restricted to a minimum or completely excluded from the diet. The list of “forbidden” foods includes even dark bread.
On the contrary, it is recommended to include boiled rice, boiled or steamed meatballs in the diet. Crackers of white bread help stopping diarrhea. It is considered appropriate to eat mashed apples and bananas.
In some cases, there is a need in the so-called pathogenetic treatment. It includes taking drugs that reduce gastric secretion and normalizing intestinal motility. In case of enzyme deficiency, a correction of malabsorption is prescribed.
Adsorbents, astringents, enveloping, and neutralizing organic acids drugs are prescribed as symptomatic medicines. These include Polipefan, Smectite, and Tannakomp.
Somatostatin, affecting exactly the secretory function and having a pronounced antidiarrheal effect is considered to be rather effective. The drug called Imodium helps regulate intestinal motility.
The so-called eubiotics can also be prescribed in case of diarrhea of different origins. Their purpose is to normalize intestinal flora. These are Linex, Lactobacterin, Bifiform, and Bactisubtil.
Antibiotic therapy is used to suppress abnormal flora. In case of infectious diarrhea, broad-spectrum antibiotics such as Nitrofurans, Sulfonamides, and Quinolones are presctibed.
Such medicines as Entero-sediv, Ercefuryl, Intetrix do not have a negative effect on intestinal microbiocenosis. That’s why they can be prescribed in case of intestinal infection.
To eliminate the effects of long-term diarrhea, the so-called rehydration therapy is used. As dehydration of the organism is one of the most dangerous consequences of diarrhea. Therefore, the patients are prescribed to take balanced mixtures of potassium chloride, sodium chloride, sodium citrate and glucose. If we talk about the existing products, they are Hydrovit and Rehydron.
In the absence of readymade drugs the patient should drink plenty of fluid. It may be fruit drinks, juices and flat mineral water.
In order to eliminate the disease, the medications should be prescribed in accordance to the disease that caused diarrhea. Thus, the type of diarrhea determines the need for treatment at a particular specialist. This can be a gastroenterologist, proctologist or infectiologist. Some cases of diarrhea require immediate hospitalization.