Everyone has an occasional bout of diarrhea. It could be stress or something you ate; however, what if your diarrhea doesn’t go away? If you are experiencing diarrhea consistently for several weeks, then you’re dealing with chronic diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea could be a warning sign of more serious digestive diseases and problems, so it’s important to see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible.
What causes chronic diarrhea?
There are a variety of disorders, diseases, and even everyday habits that could be leading to your chronic diarrhea, which is why it’s a good idea to see a gastroenterologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions of the digestive tract. Information that we garner from your initial evaluation (e.g. a family history of irritable bowel syndrome) can help us determine which tests to run.
Along with a physical examination, a gastroenterologist may also perform a blood test and stool sample to look for infections or signs of inflammation. A stool sample may be able to tell us whether your chronic diarrhea is being caused by:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections
Other factors can also lead to chronic diarrhea, including:
- Certain medications (e.g. antacids; laxatives)
- Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain chronic or preexisting conditions (e.g. diabetes; thyroid disorders)
Other causes of chronic diarrhea include:
- Immune dysfunction
- Hereditary disorders (e.g. cystic fibrosis)
- Past surgeries of the digestive tract
If a blood test or stool sample doesn’t shed light on what’s going on, then your gastroenterologist may recommend imaging tests or endoscopy or colonoscopy to check for inflammation or bleeding somewhere within the digestive tract.
If nothing is revealed in these diagnostic tests, it is possible that your chronic diarrhea could be caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While there is no cure for IBS, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make, particularly to your diet, which can reduce symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating.
A gastroenterologist is going to be the specialist you need to get chronic diarrhea, severe bloating, and abdominal pain under control. We know how frustrating chronic diarrhea can be, but we can give you the answers and treatment you’re looking for.