When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements (or stools) are loose and watery. It’s very common and usually not serious.
Many people get diarrhea once or twice each year. It normally lasts 2 to 3 days, and you can treat it with over-the-counter medicines. Some people get it more often as part of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other conditions.
You may have:
- Bloating in your belly
- Thin or loose stools
- Watery stools
- An urgent feeling that you need to have a bowel movement
- Nausea and throwing up
More serious symptoms include:
If you have watery stools more than three times a day and you're not drinking enough fluids, you could become dehydrated. That can cause serious complications if it's not treated.
Other causes include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Allergies to certain foods
- Diseases of the intestines (such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Eating foods that upset the digestive system
- Infection by bacteria (the cause of most types of food poisoning) or other organisms
- Laxative abuse
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- Radiation therapy
- Running (Some people get “runner’s diarrhea” for reasons that aren’t clear)
- Some cancers
- Surgery on your digestive system
- Trouble absorbing certain nutrients, also called “malabsorption”
Diarrhea may also follow constipation, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor immediately if you have:
- Blood in your diarrhea or black, tarry stools
- A fever that is high (above 101 F) or that lasts more than 24 hours
- Diarrhea lasting longer than 2 days
- Nausea or throwing up that prevents you from drinking liquids to replace lost fluids
- Severe pain in your abdomen or rectum
- Diarrhea after coming back from a foreign country
Also, call your doctor right away if you have diarrhea and any of these signs of dehydration: