Diarrhea is a symptom defined as passing frequent loose, watery stools. It is associated with the loss of water and electrolytes (e.g., potassium, sodium, magnesium) from your body. People with diarrhea often have increased number of bowel movements. Diarrhea is defined as passing more than 200 g (about 7 oz) of stool every 24 hours, and some people may pass more than 950 g (32 oz) in a 24-hour period.
Acute diarrhea lasts less than 14 days. Most people experience acute diarrhea at one time or another. Persistent diarrhea lasts more than 14 days but less than a month. Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than a month. Both persistent and chronic diarrhea can be a sign of more serious problems, such as medical conditions.
Diarrhea occurs when the contents in your digestive system move so quickly through the digestive system that the intestines don't have enough time to absorb the fluids, or when the digestive system produces extra fluid. The result is stools that contain excess fluids, making them loose and watery.
A number of causes and circumstances can lead to diarrhea. These include:
Most of the time, you don't have to visit your doctor to address the diarrhea. But if diarrhea lasts more than 3 days, or if you experience any other symptoms (e.g., bloody or black stools, fever, severe abdominal pain), you should see your doctor.
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