What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is loose watery stool. This is a common condition. Fortunately, diarrhea is usually short lived lasting just a short time. But if it lasts for weeks, it usually indicates a problem.


Signs and symptoms associated with diarrhea may include:

  • Loose, watery stool.
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement.
  • Abdominal pain and cramps.
  • Fever.
  • Bloating.
  • Nausea.


A variety of diseases can cause diarrhea which include:

Viruses. Many viruses cause diarrhea including Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, and viral hepatitis. Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhea in children. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has also been associated with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Bacteria and parasites. Several types of bacteria including Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella and E. Coli can cause diarrhea. These bacteria are usually ingested through contaminated food and water.

Parasites. Parasites like Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica can enter the body through food and water and settle in the digestive system.

Medications. Antibiotics, chemotherapy, and antacids containing magnesium can cause diarrhea.

Lactose Intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Diarrhea occurs in people if they cannot digest lactose. Lactose intolerance can increase with age because levels of the enzyme that helps digest lactose drop after childhood.

Fructose. Fructose is a sugar found in fruits and honey. It is used as a sweetener to certain beverages. This can lead to diarrhea in people who have trouble digesting Fructose.

Other digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, microscopic colitis

When to see a doctor

  • Your diarrhea persists beyond a few days.
  • You have a fever above 1020 F.
  • You become dehydrated.
  • You have bloody stool.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.


Diarrhea can cause dehydration. Dehydration can be life threatening, if untreated.

Signs of dehydration

These include:

  • Dry mouth or skin.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Weakness, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
  • Dark urine.
  • Fatigue.