Chronic diarrhoea is a prevalent problem that can impact individuals of all ages, occurring suddenly and typically resolving spontaneously. Generally, it is not a cause for alarm. Conversely, if diarrhoea persists or occurs frequently, it is deemed ‘chronic’. In the event of chronic diarrhoea, it is advisable to seek medical assistance.
If you are experiencing continuous or persistent (chronic) diarrhoea, we recommend scheduling an appointment with one of our highly-rated specialists to alleviate any concerns you may have.
Passing watery stools with blood or mucus can be a sign of severe diarrhoea. In addition, a fever, cramps, or weight loss may also occur. Chronic diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, which can have serious consequences if left untreated.
Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, loss of appetite, sunken eyes, dark urine, muscle cramps, a dry tongue, and a rapid heart rate. If you experience any of these symptoms alongside chronic diarrhoea, seek medical attention promptly.
Short-term diarrhoea may be caused by various factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, food allergies, and gastrointestinal infections. Additionally, psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression can have an impact on your digestive system. Furthermore, some medications can cause loose stools, and if you suspect this is the case, it’s essential to speak to your doctor about the side effects.
There are also long-term causes of diarrhoea that may require medical attention, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic infections, and some forms of cancer.
Another, much less common, cause is bowel cancer. Our experienced specialists will perform a series of tests depending on your symptoms to determine the cause.
At your initial consultation, we will inquire about your symptoms and medical history. We will need to know the duration and severity of your symptoms, any medication you are taking, and your bowel habits, including stool consistency and frequency.
Following our discussion, we may conduct a physical examination of your abdomen and recommend stool and blood tests to detect blood, infection or inflammatory bowel disease.
It is important to continue with your regular diet before these tests to ensure accurate results. Discontinuing gluten consumption before testing may interfere with the diagnosis of coeliac disease, which involves high levels of gluten antibodies after gluten intake.
For individuals over 50, we may recommend a digital rectal examination (DRE) to detect abnormalities in the bowel or rectum.
After the initial assessment, we may advise additional tests such as an upper endoscopy (gastroscopy), colonoscopy or a hydrogen breath test to identify the cause of your symptoms.
After identifying the underlying cause of your diarrhoea, we can provide guidance on how to manage your symptoms effectively. To prevent dehydration, it’s crucial to drink fluids frequently, including water. However, we recommend avoiding sweet or carbonated beverages while experiencing diarrhoea.
Acute cases of diarrhoea can often be effectively treated with over-the-counter medicines available at a pharmacy. However, if there is blood in your stool, it is not advisable to take these medications. Prescription medications that may be recommended include absorbents to make the stools less watery, antidiarrhoeal medicines like loperamide (the active ingredient in Imodium), muscle relaxants to reduce cramps and slow down digestion, antibiotics if a severe bacterial infection is present, and medicine to treat bile acid malabsorption. In cases of chronic diarrhoea, dietary changes can also help manage symptoms associated with conditions such as coeliac disease and IBS.