Does Diarrhea Require a Medical Evaluation?

If you seem attached to your toilet thanks to diarrhea, you may start to wonder if your bout of watery stools needs medical attention. Sure, everyone gets diarrhea occasionally, but when is it a sign that you should stop in to see a gastroenterologist? Look out for these signs so you know when to let it pass and when it’s time to seek treatment.

General rule of thumb

At GastroDoxs, Dr. Pothuri and his team manage a wide range of digestive conditions from run-of-the-mill diarrhea to inflammatory bowel diseases. When it comes to diarrhea, if you have watery stools that last up to two days and clear up on their own, and you have no other symptoms, it’s typically a sign you can skip the doctor’s visit.

A number of things can cause a bout of diarrhea, including bacteria from contaminated food, and common viruses, such as the norovirus. As long as you remain hydrated and don’t have alarming symptoms, it should pass on its own.

Seek medical evaluation for chronic diarrhea

Diarrhea generally falls into two categories, acute and chronic. Acute diarrhea is what you experience if you eat an undercooked burger contaminated with E. coli, for example. You may find yourself attached to your toilet several times a day for a couple of days as your body works hard to rebalance.

Chronic diarrhea, on the other hand, lasts much longer. If you experience bouts of diarrhea for 2-4 weeks, it’s considered chronic and requires a medical evaluation. Watery stools that last several weeks could point to an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

Some signals that you may have IBD include:

Know the red flags

It’s wise to know the signs that point to a more serious case of diarrhea so that you can seek immediate evaluation. If you experience these symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment with Dr. Pothuri to get checked out.

Diarrhea that gets worse

When you have an innocent bout of diarrhea, symptoms generally improve over the course of a couple of days. If you find that your symptoms are actually getting worse and more worrisome, that’s a red flag that you need to come in to see us.

You’re dehydrated

Because you’re losing fluid, diarrhea can cause dehydration in general. However, with a typical bout of diarrhea you can manage this by simply increasing your fluid intake. If your diarrhea is severe enough that you aren’t able to replace liquids adequately to keep up with your body’s needs, it’s time to seek medical attention.

You’re in severe pain

Some abdominal cramping may accompany diarrhea as your body works to flush itself out and get back into balance. You should not, however, experience severe pain with run-of-the-mill diarrhea. This can be a sign that something more serious may be going on. A thorough evaluation will help you know for sure.

There’s blood in your stool

Bloody diarrhea can signal bleeding along the digestive tract. A number of conditions that cause sores to form along the intestines can cause bloody stools, including:

Diarrhea can be a casual occurrence or something more alarming. Left untreated, chronic diarrhea can lead to serious complications and can even be life-threatening.

If you’re in the Greater Houston area and are experiencing diarrhea that needs an evaluation, stop in to see Dr. Pothuri and his team, conveniently located in Cypress. Call today to request an appointment or book online.  

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