The Diarrhoea - An increase in the fluidity, frequency, or volume of bowel movements, as compared to the usual pattern for a particular individual. Diarrhoea may be acute or chronic. The condition can be very serious in infants and in elderly people because of the risk of severe, potentially fatal, dehydration.

Acute diarrhoea is usually a result of consuming food or water contaminated with certain bacteria or viruses (see food poisoning). Infective gastroenteritis also causes diarrhoea and may be acquired as a result of droplet infection. Other causes of acute diarrhoea include anxiety and, less commonly, amoebiasis, shigellosis, typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever, drug toxicity, food allergy, and food intolerance.

Chronic diarrhoea generally takes the form of repeated attacks of acute diarrhoea. Such a pattern may be the result of an intestinal disorder such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cancer of the colon (see colon, cancer of), or irritable bowel syndrome. Diarrhoea that recurs, persists for more than a week, or is accompanied by blood requires medical investigation.

The water and electrolytes (salts) lost during a severe attack of diarrhoea need to be replaced to prevent dehydration. Ready-prepared powders of electrolyte mixtures can be bought from chemists (see rehydration therapy). Antidiarrhoeal drugs, such as diphenoxylate and loperamide may help if the diarrhoea is disabling. They should not, however, be used to treat attacks of diarrhoea in children.


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