Diarrhea is frequent, loose and watery bowel movements, also called stools. Stools contain what is left after your digestive system absorbs nutrients and fluids from what you eat and drink. If your body does not absorb the fluids, or if your digestive system produces extra fluids, stools will be loose and watery. Loose stools contain more water, salts, and minerals and weigh more than solid stools.
Diarrhea that lasts one or two days is called acute diarrhea. Diarrhea that lasts for at least four weeks is called chronic diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea symptoms may be continual or they may come and go.
As long as diarrhea goes away within one or two days, finding the cause is not usually necessary. Sometimes no cause can be found. Common causes of diarrhea include:
In addition to passing frequent, loose stools, other possible symptoms include:
You may feel sick to your stomach or become dehydrated. If a virus or bacteria is the cause of your diarrhea, you may have fever and chills and bloody stools.
You should see a healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
Diarrhea often goes away by itself, but it may be a sign of a more serious problem.
Being dehydrated means your body does not have enough fluid to work properly. Every time you have a bowel movement, you lose fluids. Diarrhea causes you to lose even more fluids. You also lose salts and minerals such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. These salts and minerals affect the amount of water that stays in your body.
Dehydration can be serious, especially for children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. Signs of dehydration in adults include:
Also, when you are dehydrated, your skin does not flatten back to normal right away after being gently pinched and released.