Long standing (chronic) diarrhoea

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What is long standing diarrhoea What are the causes of long standing diarrhoea? How is this evaluated? How is it treated?

What is long standing diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is usually means three or more loose stools per day. Diarrhoea is called long standing when it last for at least four weeks.  There are many possible causes of long standing diarrhoea. 

Long standing diarrhoea can be a mild annoyance but sometimes it can ruin your quality of life. There are cases where it can be eventually disabling or even deadly. Fortunately, once the root cause is identified, most can be effectively treated.

Long standing diarrrhoea

What are the causes of long standing diarrhoea?

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Malabsorption syndromes in which food cannot be properly digested and absorbed
  • Long standing (chronic) infections - A common cause in our part of the world
  • Endocrine disorders — An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause chronic diarrhoea and weight loss
  • Diabetes can cause chronic diarrhoea if the nerves that supply the digestive tract are injured
  • Celiac disease (gluten allergy) - Gluten is a major component of wheat flour which can cause diarrhoea and weight loss in those who are allergic to gluten
  • Lactose intolerance - Inability to divide / digest lactose in some people develop diarrhoea and gas when they ingest milk
  • Medicines — Medicines, herbs, and dietary supplements can cause diarrhoea as a side effect

How is this evaluated?

After excluding a drug induced diarrhoea, you may need to undergo some blood tests to exclude easily diagnosable conditions such as hyperactive thyroid, diabetes etc. Followed by a careful analysis of characteristics of the diarrhoea and probably a stool sample analysis will help to isolate the root cause. If still not clear what is causing the symptoms, you may need to undergo further testing and investigations including but not limited to upper gastro intestinal endoscopy, colonoscopy, immunological assays, ultrasound scans, CT scans etc.

How is it treated?

Treatment usually depends on the root cause of the problem. Symptomatic medication is often discouraged until a proper diagnosis is made.