What Causes Diarrhea in Adults
If you are having 3 or more loose or watery stools daily, you have diarrhea. Many of the causes of diarrhea in adults will resolve in a few days, so in most instances you can take care of yourself at home. The following are a number of potential reasons you may be feeling poorly.
Most acute cases of diarrhea are infectious. In other words, the illness is caused by some type of microorganism. In some cases, there may also be blood in your stool. Usually the infection is caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. The symptoms generally start within 4 hours and last between 3 and 7 days. Most bacterial and viral infections resolve on their own, however occasionally there may be need for antibiotics. Otherwise, rest, drinking plenty of fluids and being careful with what you eat is recommended until you are feeling better.
Medication Side Effect
Many medications have diarrhea listed as a potential side effect. If you develop diarrhea, you should note if you have recently started taking a new medication or supplement. Additionally, if you have been taking antibiotics in the last few weeks, you are at increased risk of developing an infection from C. difficile. If this is the cause, you will need antibiotics to treat it.
Even if you have never had a problem in the past, you can develop a new allergy to food at any time. Usually, if this is the cause of your diarrhea, it will occur within an hour from the time you ate. However, sometimes with a meat allergy, symptoms won’t start for about 4 hours. Food allergies can be a dangerous new development because diarrhea is one of the milder symptoms. With true allergies, you could be at risk of breathing problems and life threatening low blood pressure. So, if you suspect an allergy, you should consult with your physician.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of illnesses that are caused by your immune system. The two most common are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is characterized by repetitive periods of acute illness, followed by periods of remission. Diagnosis is made most often in people between 10 and 40 years of age. If you have persistent, repetitive episodes of diarrhea, this may be something your doctor will investigate further.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is more common among women, and may or may not be associated with diarrhea. Typically, these people experience abdominal pain and bloating, a feeling of incomplete evacuation during bowel movements, and constipation and/or diarrhea. The symptoms often resolve after defecation, but people who have the predominant symptom of diarrhea often need to be very careful with their diets and may need medication to control the diarrhea.
When is it Time to Head to the Urgent Care?
As previously stated, most cases of diarrhea are self-limited, meaning that the symptoms will resolve on their own. By resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating foods that agree with you, you should be feeling better within the week. However, if you experience any of the following, you should seek medical treatment:
· If you have a fever of 101.3 or greater
· If you have bloody or black diarrhea
· If you have severe abdominal pain
· If you are experiencing dizziness
· If you are not urinating very much, or your urine is getting dark.
· If you have had 6 or more episodes of diarrhea per day, for more than 2 days
· If you are having frequent small stools with blood and mucus
· If you have had severe watery diarrhea and feel sluggish, very fatigued, thirsty, have a dry mouth, have muscle cramps, chest pain, or confusion
· If you have a stiff neck
· If you have traveled overseas recently
· If you have chronic illnesses or immune deficiency
· If you are over 65 years of age
If you are concerned about your symptoms, have more questions regarding diarrhea or have any other health issues you wish to discuss, come in to see one of our highly trained, board certified medical staff at Patient Care Now Urgent Care. For more information call our Fairless Hills Urgent Care Center at (267) 202-6433 today. We look forward to helping you with all of your healthcare needs.