Everyone occasionally has diarrhea — loose, watery and more-frequent bowel movements. You might also have abdominal cramps and produce a greater volume of stool. Diarrhea varies in specific symptoms, severity and duration.
Acute diarrhea, which lasts from two days to two weeks, is typically caused by a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection of some sort.
Chronic diarrhea persists longer than does acute diarrhea, generally longer than four weeks. Chronic diarrhea can indicate a serious disorder, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, or a less serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Acute diarrhea causes may include:
Chronic diarrhea causes may include:
Most cases of diarrhea resolve without treatment. However, severe diarrhea can cause dehydration, which can be life-threatening if untreated. Dehydration is particularly dangerous in children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.