Diarrhea

What is diarrhea and what causes it?

Diarrhea, characterized by loose, watery stools, is an extremely uncomfortable and disruptive problem. Like vomiting, it can be the body’s way of rejecting something that has been ingested. Most cases of diarrhea are mild, but some cases can be symptoms of a more serious health problem. Diarrhea can be caused by a number of different issues, including:

  • Food poisoning
  • Medications
  • Diseases of the intestines (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Malabsorption (body is unable to adequately absorb certain nutrients from the diet)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Some cancers
  • Laxative abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes

Signs & symptoms

If you are suffering from diarrhea that is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it may be indicative of a more serious health problem that requires medical treatment. Contact your doctor as soon as possbile if you are experiencing:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool
  • Sharp abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Fever

What do I do?

The vast majority of diarrhea cases resolve on their own within hours. When experiencing diarrhea it is extremely important to keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids, especially water. Many over-the-counter products exist to treat symptoms of mild diarrhea. If sharp abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody stools or a fever accompanies your diarrhea, see your doctor immediately.

Resources

Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS)
Village C West 206
(202) 687-4357

Student Health Center
Darnall Hall Ground Floor
To make an appt: (202) 687-2200
After hours clinician on-call: (202) 444-7243

Georgetown University Hospital
3800 Reservoir Road
Emergency Room
Call 911