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Updated May 14, 2012

Definition: Bowel movements that are more frequent than usual and loose or watery. There are many causes of diarrhea, including Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroenteritis ("stomach flu"), and bacterial infection. Diarrhea may also be a side effect of some medications.

Most adults experience diarrhea several times a year, and it typically will resolve on its own without any treatment. When diarrhea becomes chronic or is accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, or the passing of blood or mucus, it can be a signal of a more serious problem. Diarrhea poses a special problem for infants and small children because they can become dehydrated easily.

Most cases of diarrhea resolve on their own, so treatment beyond replacing lost fluids usually isn't necessary. If the diarrhea is caused by bacteria, slowing down the diarrhea with medications isn't recommended. In these cases, the diarrhea helps the body shed the offending bugs quicker. For chronic forms of diarrhea, treatment will be dictated based on the cause.

Alternate Spellings: diarrhoea

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