Diarrhoea: What are its causes & how to prevent it?

Diarrhea or Diarrhoea is a condition that is characterized with having three or more watery stools in a day. Above all, it is marked with dehydration, fatigue & loss of sphincter control.

Diarrhea is not a disease but a condition that is a prominent feature of several diseases, like cholera, dysentery, IBD, lactose intolerance etc.

There are basically three types of diarrhea:

  1. Short duration watery diarrhea
  2. Short duration bloody diarrhea
  3. Persistent diarrhea (lasting for two or more weeks)

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS 

  • Loose Watery stool
  • Blood in the stool
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness & Irritability
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

CAUSES & RISK FACTORS OF DIARRHOEA

There are several causes and diseases that present with diarrhea:

Infection Diarrhoea: Diarrhea caused due to infections by various viruses & parasites:

  • Gastroenteritis due to Rota Virus infection
  • Norovirus is a common cause of diarrhea in adults
  • Adeno virus causes diarrhea & vomiting
  • Bacteria like salmonella found in infected or raw meat cause severe diarrhea
  • Protozoan infections by amoebas cause diarrhea
  • Parasites like Giardia cause a condition called Giardiasis

Disease that present diarrhea: Many disease have a direct relation to diarrhea:

  • Irritable bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • IBDs like Crohn’s disease & Ulcerative Colitis
  • Lactose intolerance that is the inability to digest milk
  • Celiac disease, an allergy to gluten,  protein found in wheat
  • Malabsorption, that is the inability to absorb or digest certain vitamins, minerals & foods
  • Fructose intolerance

Other causes: Various other causes that can lead to diarrhea are:

  • Lack of sanitation
  • Contaminated food & water
  • Living in unhygienic conditions
  • Open defecation & lack of a proper toilet system
  • Poverty
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Certain individuals can develop or have allergies against antibiotics like penicillin, that can lead to diarrhea
  • Surgeries that disrupt the intestinal functions

COMPLICATIONS IN DIARRHOEA

  • Severe Dehydration
  • Dangerously low levels of electrolytes
  • Low levels of Sodium & chlorine
  • Cerebral Encephalopathy
  • Altered state of mind
  • In infants & children, diarrhea like gastroenteritis can lead to severe damage to the organs & even death
  • Blood loss
  • Hospitalization

DIAGNOSIS

  1. Normal physician approach in which the consistency of the stool, duration of condition presented, food & water intake habits, presence of abdominal pain if any, etc is checked.
  2. Blood test to detect presence of bile pigments or bacterial toxins in blood. 
  3. Stool test to check the presence of parasites and protozoans, or any other toxin.
  4. Colonoscopy to check for inconsistencies or presence of scars in the intestines, or to check presence of intestinal worms.
  5. Various tests are conducted to check sensitivity to lactose & gluten.

TREATMENT OF DIARRHOEA

  • Medications like bismuth compounds & adsorbants are used, adsorbants are agents that prevent excess loss of water.
  • Oral rehydration salts, that contain a formula of sodium chloride & essential electrolyte to account for the loss of electrolytes.
  • Anti protozoal & anti parasite drugs like albendazole, mebendazole, etc.
  • Drugs that reduce the frequency of diarrhea like loperamide.
  • Zinc supplements.
  • Probiotics like curd & buttermilk.

PREVENTION & MANAGEMENT

  • Sanitation 
  • Establishment of toilet system in poor areas.Boiling the water to kill parasites.
  • Eating properly cooked meat & food.
  • Avoid food that can cause allergies.
  • Eating more fiber
  • Washing your hands before & after eating.
  • Rota virus vaccine
  • Avoid eating foods that are open to exposure.