gastrointestinal conditions

Chronic Diarrhea

Most of us experience the discomfort of diarrhea now and then. When loose, watery bowel movements become more chronic, it may be time to visit your doctor to find out what's causing your diarrhea.

Your large intestine, or colon, normally absorbs excess fluid as it completes the digestion cycle and creates bowel movements. When it doesn't absorb the extra liquid, you'll end up with diarrhea.

A number of different things can be at the root of diarrhea, including common viruses, bacteria and parasites that affect you temporarily. More chronic diarrhea may be caused by:

  • Gastrointestinal surgery;
  • Lactose intolerance due to an inability for your body to digest the sugar found in milk and dairy products;
  • Medications, including common antibiotics prescribed for other illnesses;
  • Other digestive disorders, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease.

In order to figure out the cause of your diarrhea, your doctor will review your health history as well as perform a physical exam. Blood and/or stool tests may also be useful in narrowing down the source of the problem. Imaging procedures like colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy may also provide information your doctor needs to identify the problem.

Treatment for Chronic Diarrhea

Treatment varies based on what your gastroenterologist finds is causing your chronic diarrhea. Options include adjusting medications, avoiding certain foods or treating underlying conditions. Your doctor may also need to help you restore fluids you've lost from chronic diarrhea.

Though diarrhea is common, loose stools that continue for weeks shouldn't be ignored. Your gastroenterologist will help you find the cause and work toward a solution to this common and uncomfortable problem.