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Chronic Diarrhea: What Does It Mean to Have This Condition?

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated May 31, 2021

Chronic Diarrhea: What Does It Mean to Have This Condition?

Whenever a person has diarrhea, a bacterial or viral infection is to blame. But what if a person experiences chronic diarrhea? Could it be caused by a more serious problem, or is it nothing to worry about?

What is chronic diarrhea?

Chronic diarrhea is a condition wherein a person has three or more loose stools per day , but no apparent illness associated with it.

Usually, when a person has diarrhea, they might also experience other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, vomiting, or weight loss. But in the case of chronic diarrhea, these symptoms might not be present at all.

A person with chronic diarrhea may experience going to the bathroom frequently, runny stools, abdominal pain, as well as irritation and inflammation of the anus.This can have a substantial impact on one’s quality of life and overall health, as its effects range from inconvenience to disability, and even death if left untreated.

Chronic diarrhea also lasts a long time, which is why it is important to find out what causes it so that it can be treated.

chronic diarrhea

What are the causes?

There are a number of reasons that can potentially cause chronic diarrhea:

Dietary changes

A change in a person’s diet can sometimes cause them to have chronic diarrhea. This is especially true if they are not used to certain types of foods.

If a person who is not aware that they are lactose intolerant suddenly starts having more dairy, then that could explain their chronic diarrhea. It’s also possible to have an intolerance to soy-based products, gluten, fructose, and sorbitol.

If you notice a sudden change in your bowel movements, then it might be a good idea to check if the food you ate earlier might be responsible.

Most Common Causes of Diarrhea with Fever

Underlying medical condition

In some cases, having an underlying medical condition can cause chronic diarrhea. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, diabetes mellitus, and hyperthyroidism are just a few examples of these conditions.

If you haven’t made any changes in your diet and you’re experiencing persistent diarrhea, it might be good to talk to your doctor about it.

It is also important to pay attention to any other symptoms you might be experiencing, as this would help during your consultation.

Side effects of medication

It’s also possible for certain types of medication to trigger a reaction that would affect your bowel movements.

In particular, antibiotics, misoprostol, magnesium hydroxide, “stool softeners,’ and similar medication can trigger persistent diarrhea.

Alcohol and caffeine are also possible triggers of persistent diarrhea. So it would be wise to avoid drinking caffeinated drinks or alcohol in the meantime.

In some cases, herbal medication can also trigger diarrhea. If you’ve recently taken any herbal supplements or products, be sure to check the ingredients. It’s possible that one of the herbs found in these supplements might be causing your diarrhea.

When should you be worried?

As far as chronic diarrhea is concerned, the usual causes are a change in your diet or the side effects of medication. Addressing these usually resolve the concern.

However, if you notice that you’re having chronic diarrhea, and you’re unsure about what might be causing it, iconsult a doctor as soon as possible.

There are a number of tests that doctors can perform in order to find out the cause of your diarrhea, such as the following:

  • CT scan
  • Blood tests
  • Colonoscopy
  • Stool culture
  • Defecating proctogram

Key Takeaways

Chronic diarrhea can cause a lot of inconvenience, and can sometimes be annoying to deal with. This is especially true if you are finding it difficult to determine the cause.

Knowing the possible causes of diarrhea can help you figure out what steps to take, and know when to consult with your doctor. Of course, if you feel anything might be wrong, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Learn more about Digestive Health here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated May 31, 2021

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