Types of Diarrhea

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Types of diarrheal illness

Diarrheal illnesses can be divided according to the cause:

  • Infections (commonest cause)
    • Viruses (commonest agents causing diarrhea)
      • Rotavirus – (Most common in children)
      • Norwalk virus
      • Cytomegalovirus
      • Calciviruses
      • Coronaviruses
      • Astrovirus
      • Herpes Simplex virus
    • Bacterial
      • Salmonella group (includes bacteria causing typhoid fever)
      • E. Coli
      • Shigella
      • Listeria
      • Campylobacter
      • V. cholerae (cholera)
    • Parasites
      • Giardia lamblia
      • Entamoeba histolytica
      • Trichuriasis
      • Cryptosporidium
  • Food Intolerance (Allergy to food) – Some people are not able to digest a component of food e.g. lactose in milk, proteins of eggs and milk, gluten protein of wheat.
  • Intestinal diseases
  • Stress and Anxiety – Commonly seen as sudden urge to pass stools frequently before an exam or an interview.
  • Prolonged antibiotic intake – Use of certain antibiotics (ampicillin, amoxicillin, tetracyclines) can cause depletion of bacteria residing normally in our intestines (normal bacterial flora). These bacteria are beneficial for us and their depletion results in infection by a bacteria named Clostridium difficile. Diarrhea occurs as a result of a toxin produced by the bacteria.
  • Reactions to medicines, alcohol, illicit drugs.
  • People who visit countries having poor sanitation often get a diarrheal illness caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages and it is known as traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Other uncommon causes are
    • Contamination of food by chemicals e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, arsenic and cadmium.
    • Excess of Vitamin C or magnesium (in anti-acidity medications) intake
    • Radiotherapy
    • AIDS
    • After stomach surgery
    • After removal of gall bladder
  • In many cases the cause may not be found (unknown).