Dictionary > Diarrhea


An abnormally frequent discharge of a loose, watery stool
Diarrhea pertains to the abnormally frequent fecal evacuations. This condition is characterized by discharge of a loose or watery stool of more than three times each day.1 It involves fluid loss and therefore may eventually lead to dehydration. Dehydration should be monitored since it may lead to serious complications particularly when it is accompanied by decreased urination, fast heart rate, paleness, and decreased level of consciousness. Diarrheal disease is said to be the second leading cause of death in children ages five years old and below. It is also one of the causes of malnutrition of the said age group.1
Diarrhea is commonly caused by viral and bacterial infections and parasite infestations. Non-infectious factors also lead to diarrhea such as lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism, etc.
There are various forms of diarrhea. For instance, secretory diarrhea involves secretion of anions and dysfunction in intestinal absorption. The possible cause is the presence of a cholera toxin. Osmotic diarrhea is one in which there is too much water in the bowels. One of the causes is the excessive intake of solutions high in sugar or salt. Dysentery is one that is characterized by a bloody stool. It is often due to infection caused by Shigella, Salmonella, and Entamoeba histolytica.
Word origin: Greek rhein (to flow)

  • diarrhea (British)

See also:

  • dysentery
  • Related term(s):


    1” Diarrhoeal disease”. (April 2013). WHO. Retrieved from ://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/.

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