Diagnosis and treatment of diarrhea

Although usually not harmful, diarrhea can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem.

You should see your doctor if:

  • You have diarrhea for more than 3 days
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen or rectum
  • You have a fever over 38.88 degrees Celsius
  • See blood in your stools or they are black, like tar
  • Have signs of dehydration

If your child has diarrhea, don’t hesitate to call the doctor for advice. Diarrhea can be dangerous if children have lost a lot of fluids that have not been replaced quickly.

What tests can the doctor do?

Diagnostic tests to find the causes of diarrhea include the following:

  • Medical history and clinical examination. The doctor needs to know about your eating habits and possible medication use to examine you for symptoms of the disease.
  • Stool culture. Microbiologists analyze a stool sample in the lab to check for bacteria, parasites or other signs of disease or infection.
  • Blood tests. Blood tests may be useful to rule out certain diseases.
  • Nutritional tests. To find out if a food intolerance or allergy is causing diarrhea. The doctor may ask you to avoid lactose, found in dairy products, carbohydrates, wheat or other foods to see if the diarrhea responds to a change in diet.
  • igmoidoscopy. For this test, the doctor uses a special instrument to examine the inside of the rectum and the lower part of the colon.
  • Colonoscopy. This test is similar to sigmoidoscopy, but the doctor looks at the entire colon.

Is there an effective treatment for diarrhea?

In most cases, the only treatment necessary is to replace fluids that have been lost to prevent dehydration. Drugs that stop diarrhea may be helpful in some cases, but are not recommended for people whose diarrhea is from a bacterial infection or parasite, because by stopping diarrhea the microorganism gets trapped in the intestines and we get a prolongation of the problem. Instead, doctors usually prescribe antibiotics. Viral causes are either treated with medication or allowed to run their course, depending on the severity and type of virus.