What is Diarrhea?

We all know what diarrhea is? But have you ever wondered what doctors think about diarrhea, i.e. when doctors diagnose a patient to be suffering from diarrhea. Well, truly speaking doctors are also confused as what should be called diarrhea (that is the reason many authors define diarrhea in a different way and different parameter). Diarrhea can be simply defined as “passage of unformed or abnormally liquid stool at increased frequency”. Diarrhea also sometimes defined as “passage of more than 200 grams of stool per day on a typical Western diet”. But this definition can not be applied to people not consuming typical Western diet. Because individuals taking more fiber/roughage (such as people living in developing countries) can pass stool much more than 200 grams per day but do not suffer from diarrhea.

Pseudo-diarrhea is the term used for frequent passage of stool in small volume, which is commonly associated with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), rectal urgency or proctitis (inflammation of rectum). Fecal incontinence is involuntary passage of rectal contents (stool).

Diarrhea can be of three types. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts for less than 2 weeks. Diarrhea is called persistent when it lasts for 2-4 week and chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts for more than 4 weeks.

Global scenario of diarrhea:

Diarrhea is extremely common health problem. Diarrhea is common even in developed countries and it is extremely common problem in developing and underdeveloped nations. Globally more than a billion individuals suffer from diarrhea each year. Diarrhea is responsible for mortality, morbidity, social inconvenience, loss of productivity, and consumption of medical resources and put a huge burden on economy.

Worldwide 2-3 million deaths occur due to diarrhea, especially infants and children and elderly in developing countries. Rotavirus diarrhea is responsible for largest number of infant deaths.

It is estimated that more than 100 millions individuals suffer from diarrhea each year (but only approximately 10% consult physician) in the United States, which leads to a quarter of million (250,000) hospitalizations and approximately 5,000 deaths, generally older individuals. Diarrhea drains away billions of dollars each year by loss of work productivity, morbidity, restricted movements, hospitalization etc.

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