Despite the fact that diarrhea is a prevalent health condition, in some cases, it can reach a state that is rather debilitating and life-threatening. Diarrhea is identified as passing loose and watery stools more frequently than usual, which can last up to 14 days or more. In some cases, mild diarrhea can be self-medicated using an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication like IMODIUM®, which contains the active ingredient Loperamide. However. Medical intervention is necessary to manage acute diarrhea for the elderly, children, frail patients and those with other chronic diseases.¹
It also recommended to seek medical intervention if symptoms do not show any improvement after 48 hours or in case of evident deterioration, like dehydration or dysentery.¹ Other conditions and signs of diarrheal diseases, may require medical attention and a thorough examination to treat potential underlying illnesses or causes.
Common symptoms of diarrhea, beside passed stool consistency and frequency, are fatigue, nausea, fever, cramps and vomiting.² Here are six signals it’s time to seek professional advice and treatment for diarrhea. These can either result from diarrhea or co-occur as symptoms of another condition behind it.
1. Diarrhea persisting more than a few days
Experiencing diarrhea for more than a couple of days without improvement could be a sign of infection. In this case, the patient may need prescribed antibiotics to treat the parasitic or bacterial infection that led to diarrhea.³ Diarrhea lasting more than two weeks can also point to severe inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome.⁴
2. Undergoing signs of dehydration
Experiencing diarrhea for a prolonged period can cause severe fluids loss leading to dehydration. This condition means the body does not have enough essential water and salts to function normally, which could even cause kidney failure.⁵ It can be particularly life-threatening to children and elderly patients. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, dry skin, thirst, inability to sweat, dark-coloured urine and less frequent urination.⁶
Dehydration requires immediate medical care to replenish the lost electrolytes through intravenous therapy (IV) or oral rehydration solutions. These are mixtures of sugar, water and salts that the body can absorb to be able to function properly again.⁶
3. Substantial weight loss or malnutrition
Diarrhea can cause unintentional weight loss as a result of intestinal malabsorption and insufficient dietary intake. In this case, the body does not get enough nutrients which can lead to substantial loss of fat, muscle mass and body tissues. The root cause for weight loss could be a severe infection, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions.⁷
4. Bloody diarrhea
Bloody diarrhea is a condition in which blood can be observed in loose and watery stools, and it can signify many underlying disorders or causes. Common symptoms that occur with bloody diarrhea are body aches, fatigue, rectal pain, nausea, abdominal pain or bloating and faecal incontinence. Severe cases of bloody diarrhea are often a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding, which occurs due to certain chronic diseases or injuries.⁸
Causes of bloody diarrhea include haemorrhoids, proctitis, rotavirus and anal fissures. It could also be a sign of having a chronic condition like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. In these conditions, the immune system could attack the gastrointestinal tract causing it to bleed.⁹ All the aforementioned cases of bloody diarrhea should be addressed by a medical professional.
5. Developing mouth sores
Noticing mouth sores in addition to diarrhea can indicate Crohn’s disease. It can affect the gastrointestinal tract and cause inflammation that can create sores in the digestive tissue.¹⁰ A mouth sore can also signify celiac disease, an immune reaction to eating gluten that affects the small intestine.¹¹
6. Increased fever
A fever higher than 39-celsius degrees can indicate an infection or inflammation. When both diarrhea symptoms and increased fever occur, it is advised to seek medical help for proper diagnosis and treatment.¹²
Visit our FAQ section for more information about diarrheal diseases and how IMODIUM® can help you manage it.
2. https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(09)00344-8/pdf - 2009
3. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea... - November 2016
4. http://www.antimicrobe.org/e17.asp - Jan 2017
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791660/ - September 2003
7. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/133/1/328S/4687565 - January 2003
10. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/crohns-disease-a-to-z - November 2018