Causes of Diarrhea


Cause of Diarrhea: Causes include viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections; food intolerance; reactions to medicine; intestinal diseases; and functional bowel disorders. 1

Cause statistics for Diarrhea: The following are statistics from various sources about the causes of Diarrhea:

  • Up to 20% of people receiving antibiotics get diarrhea in the US (Mayo Clinic)

Cause details for Diarrhea: Diarrhea may be caused by a temporary problem, like an infection, or a chronic problem, like an intestinal disease. A few of the more common causes of diarrhea are

  • Bacterial infections. Several types of bacteria, consumed through contaminated food or water, can cause diarrhea. Common culprits include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Escherichia coli.

  • Viral infections. Many viruses cause diarrhea, including rotavirus, Norwalk virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, and viral hepatitis.

  • Food intolerances. Some people are unable to digest a component of food, such as lactose, the sugar found in milk.

  • Parasites. Parasites can enter the body through food or water and settle in the digestive system. Parasites that cause diarrhea include Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, and Cryptosporidium.

  • Reaction to medicines, such as antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and antacids containing magnesium.

  • Intestinal diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease.

  • Functional bowel disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, in which the intestines do not work normally.

Some people develop diarrhea after stomach surgery or removal of the gallbladder. The reason may be a change in how quickly food moves through the digestive system after stomach surgery or an increase in bile in the colon that can occur after gallbladder surgery.

In many cases, the cause of diarrhea cannot be found. As long as diarrhea goes away on its own, an extensive search for the cause is not usually necessary.

People who visit foreign countries are at risk for traveler's diarrhea, which is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or, sometimes, parasites. Traveler's diarrhea is a particular problem for people visiting developing countries. Visitors to the United States, Canada, most European countries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand do not face much risk for traveler's diarrhea. 1

Underlying condition causes of Diarrhea: The list of possible underlying conditions (see also Misdiagnosis of underlying causes of Diarrhea) mentioned in various sources as possible causes of Diarrhea includes:

Diarrhea as a complication: Other conditions that might have Diarrhea as a complication might be potential underlying causes of Diarrhea. The list of conditions listing Diarrhea as a complication in our database includes:

Diarrhea as a symptom: Conditions listing Diarrhea as a symptom may also be potential underlying causes of Diarrhea. The list of conditions listing Diarrhea as a symptom in our database includes:

Causes of Diarrhea: medical news summaries: The following medical news items are relevant to causes of Diarrhea:

Related information for causes of Diarrhea: Further relevant information on causes of Diarrhea may be found in the risk factors for Diarrhea and underlying causes of Diarrhea.

1. excerpt from Diarrhea: NIDDK

Last revision: Nov 11, 2003

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