What is chronic diarrhea?

    Diarrhea that lasts less than two weeks is called acute. Diarrhea that lasts between 2 and 4 weeks is called persistent. Diarrhea that lasts for one month or more is considered to be chronic.


    What causes chronic diarrhea?

    Chronic diarrhea has many different causes. Some common causes are:

    •    Celiac disease

    •    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

    •    Intestinal infections

    •    Inflammatory bowel disease (like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)

    •    Reactions to some medicines


    What are the symptoms of chronic diarrhea?

    People with chronic diarrhea have to go to the bathroom more often than they normally do. They produce more stools than they usually do and the stools are less solid than normal. Stools may be loose and watery, greasy or bloody. Some people find that they wake up at night because they have to go to the bathroom. Other associated symptoms may include decreased appetite, weight loss, fever or abdominal cramping.


    How will the doctor find out what is causing my diarrhea?

    There are many causes for chronic diarrhea. The doctor will look at the medicines you are taking to be sure that none of them are causing diarrhea. The doctor may order tests, based on your symptoms and history. Tests may include blood or stool tests. If these initial tests do not reveal the problem, other tests may be needed.


    What is the treatment for chronic diarrhea?

        The treatment of chronic diarrhea depends on its cause.

        Diarrhea caused by an infection may be treated with antibiotics

        Some other causes of chronic diarrhea may have specific treatments, like pancreatic enzymes

        Changes in diet may be helpful for some people. Your doctor can give you more information on what foods are best in your case

        A daily fiber supplement is helpful for many people

        Drinking plenty of water helps avoid dehydration

        Avoiding alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can lead to dehydration

    This document is intended to provide health related information so that you may be better informed. It is not a substitute for your care team’s medical advice and should not be relied upon for treatment for specific medical conditions.

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