Diarrhoea is a condition characterised by more frequent, thin or loose bowel movements. It is often accompanied by other symptoms such as intestinal cramps, flatulence and nausea. Diarrhoea is not a clinical picture in itself but rather a symptom of many different diseases. Treatment focuses on treating the cause of the diarrhoea as well as fluid replacement. Diarrhoea can quickly lead to dehydration, particularly in small children.
The frequency of the bowel movements and the condition of the stools are extremely different. In medical terms, diarrhoea is said to exist after more than three days of mushy or liquid bowel movements. Diarrhoea can occur for very different reasons. Gastroenteritis, food incompatibilities, stress and irritable bowel are the most common. However, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease and bowel cancer can also sometimes lie behind diarrhoea.
Gastrointestinal infections, food incompatabilties or food poisoning lead to acute diarrhoea, which is usually remedied once more within a few days. Ongoing diarrhoea, particularly in small children, or chronic diarrhoea should always be checked by a doctor. Irritable bowel and chronically inflamed bowel disease are among the most frequent causes of chronic diarrhoea.
If a person has diarrhoea, the first step is to find out where it is coming from. Depending on the situation, different examinations such as a stool test, a blood test, an ultrasound and a colonoscopy are also carried out.
The first step when treating diarrhoea is fluid replacement. This is particularly important for small children, who quickly become dehydrated when they have diarrhoea. Fluid replacement is then administered in the form of isotonic drinks. Sometimes an infusion may even be required. The treatment also depends on what is causing the diarrhoea. Antibiotics are used on patients with bacterial infections. However, antibiotics themselves can also trigger diarrhoea. This type of diarrhoea is referred to as antibiotic-induced diarrhoea. Taking probiotic intestinal bacteria can have a preventative effect. However, in such cases the antibiotic must sometimes be changed or stopped.