Diarrhoea is a common symptom resulting in looser and more frequent stools. Diarrhoea can be acute lasting less than weeks or chronic, persisting beyond 2 weeks. Diarrhoea occurs because the fluid content of the stools increases, either because the lining of the intestine is stimulated to push more water into the stool or because un-absorbed food attracts more water to stay in the stool.
Acute diarrhoea is usually due to a gastrointestinal infection and rarely lasts for more than a few days or occasionally up to 2 weeks. Infections can be viruses, bacteria or other parasites. Viruses can infect through water particles in the air which are breathed in or through the mouth. Bacteria are invariably contracted via contaminated food or water. Most cases of infectious diarrhoea do not need treating but some may need antibiotics. It is however very important to keep hydrated, particularly in the very young or old.
Acute diarrhoea does not usually require investigations. Chronic diarrhoea often does need some tests in order to make a correct diagnosis. Below are a list of some of the more common causes of chronic diarrhoea:
Bowel cancer
Inflammatory bowel disease such a Crohn's disease
Chronic infections
(a) Antibiotics
Investigations include blood tests, stool tests, colonoscopy, gastroscopy and breath tests.
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