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Diarrhea is a condition that can greatly affect an individual due to the increased frequency of loose watery stool. It can come in two forms, acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea is characterized by a sudden onset. This is normally caused by an infection from bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Chronic diarrhea, as described by the Cleveland Clinic, occurs when more than three stools per day are experienced for more than a month. This condition indicates a presence of inflammatory or functional disorder in the bowel, which can lead to more serious or even life-threatening effects in the body.
What Are the Side Effects of Diarrhea?
Dehydration refers to the excessive loss of minerals and body fluids in the body. This side effect of diarrhea occurs when more than the normal amount of fluids in the body is being expelled out or excreted. The over-excretion of bodily fluids and electrolytes can seriously affect the functioning of the body and its systems. Some of the signs of dehydration include thirstiness, dry mouth, less urination, fatigue, and dryness of the skin.
Dehydration due to diarrhea can also lead to orthostatic hypotension. This happens when the volume of the blood in the body is reduced, causing a drop in the blood pressure. Fainting upon standing may be experienced due to the drastic decrease in the blood volume.
The body needs well-balanced electrolytes in order to maintain the proper functioning of the organs. Some of the main electrolytes needed by the body include calcium, carbonate, chloride, magnesium, potassium, phosphate, and sodium. Prolonged-diarrhea can lead to loss of water and electrolytes in the body. These mineral deficiencies can cause complications and diseases that can be life-threatening. For example, low levels of potassium can lead to confusion, muscles weakness, fatigue, and can even affect the blood sugar level in the body. Lack of sodium in the body can also lead to weakness, drowsiness, confusion, and seizure.
Affect Brain’s function
This is commonly experienced by young children and infants as one of side effects of diarrhea. Pregnant women should take extra care and maintain proper bowel health at all times. This is because even acute diarrhea can affect the health of the fetus in the womb.
Malnutrition is a common side effect of diarrhea due to the malfunctioning of the small intestines. The condition inhibits the small intestine to absorb the needed nutrients from the body. It also increases the susceptibility of the body to several infections that can lead to diarrhea. Symptoms of malnutrition include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, decaying teeth, skin dryness, confusion, and difficulty in learning.
Severe cases of diarrhea can lead to conditions that greatly affect the bodily organs and functioning. It can lead to kidney failure which in turn reduces the urine output in the body. Diarrhea can also cause shock and high levels of acid in the blood. These conditions may lead to a coma if not properly treated and given attention.
Other side effects of diarrhea
There have been more conditions that have been observed in the body when severe and prolonged diarrhea is experienced. Some of which include:
- Moderate to severe abdominal pain
- Cramps and tenderness of the stomach
- Irritation of the anus
- Weakness, fatigue, and lack of energy
- Vomiting and nausea
- Abnormal levels of bicarbonate and chloride
When Should You See a Doctor for Diarrhea?
Most cases of diarrhea are nothing serious but will just merely bring inconvenience. However, there are cases of diarrhea that may lead to a more serious condition. There may be a warning sign of other underlying health conditions such as an infection, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, or even cancer of the colon. Be sure to seek medical help if the following symptoms are observed:
- Severe pain in the abdomen and rectum
- Presence of blood in the stool
- Tarry and black stools
- High fever
- Signs of dehydration
- Diarrhea for more the 24 hours in children and more than 3 days in adults
How to Deal With Diarrhea Properly?
Acute cases of diarrhea can be resolved even without any treatment. However, chronic diarrhea which is more severe and persistent should be properly diagnosed and treated. Below are some suggestion you’d better follow, and best of all, see a doctor to get the best treatment for avoiding any side effects of diarrhea.
1. Rehydration is always the key
- Drink more fluids in order to replace the lost ones. Severe cases of diarrhea may opt to receive fluids intravenously.
- Oral rehydration solutions which contain glucose and salt can be taken to replace the lost electrolytes and water.
- Oral rehydration products and supplements like Oralyte, Rehydrate, and Zinc supplementations are commercially available to reduce the severity of diarrhea especially in children.
2. Take antidiarrheal medications
There are several antidiarrheal drugs available over-the-counter. These drugs can help reduce diarrhea both in children and adults.
- Antimotility drugs such as Loperamide and Imodium to reduce stools.
- Bismuth subsalicylate such as Pepto-Bismol to reduce stool output and prevents traveler’s diarrhea.
Some concerns arise regarding the effect of antidiarrheal drugs because some claim that there may be prolonged bacterial infection due to the reduction of the pathogen removal by the stool.
3. Take antibiotics
The use of antibiotics to treat diarrhea can be done only if the causative agent is bacteria. If the cause of the condition is medication, then switching to other drugs will be helpful.
Probiotics show several helpful effects in treating diarrhea. Some studies show that it can prevent the occurrence of traveler’s diarrhea and diarrheal illness, especially in children. The probiotics are available in powder, liquid, tablets, and capsules.
5. Well–balanced diet
A well-balanced diet can help treat diarrhea. It should include a variety of choices with a wide array of nutrients.
- Clear liquid without any added sugar. Be sure to drink at least one cup after every loose stool.
- Eat foods rich in potassium such as peeled potatoes, bananas, and diluted fruit juices.
- Eat food high in sodium such as salted crackers, soups, and sports drinks.
- Eat foods high in soluble fiber such as oatmeal, rice, and banana.
- Limit fried, creamy, and sugary food intake.
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