Diarrhea

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Resident
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Diarrhea Microchapters

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Overview

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Classification

Acute Diarrhea
Chronic diarrhea

Differential Diagnosis

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] ; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Usama Talib, BSc, MD [2], Sadaf Sharfaei M.D.[3], Seyedmahdi Pahlavani, M.D. [4], Cafer Zorkun, M.D., Ph.D. [5], M.Umer Tariq [6]

Synonyms and Keywords: Loose stools

Overview

Diarrhea is defined as the passage of unformed or abnormally liquid stools at an increased frequency. Diarrhea can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea has a duration of less than 2 weeks and may be classified on the basis of etiology and presentation. On the basis of etiology, acute diarrhea may be classified into infectious and non-infectious subtypes. Subacute diarrhea is defined as a diarrhea lasting for two to four weeks. Although chronic diarrhea has multiple definitions, a current working definition is the production of loose stools for longer than 4 weeks. Frequent defecation with normal consistency is termed psuedo-diarrhea. There are 3 basic categories of chronic diarrhea: watery, fatty (malabsorption), and inflammatory (with blood and pus). The diagnosis is based on duration of symptoms, signs, microscopic stool examination and culture, stool osmolarity, and in some rare instances colonoscopy. The treatment is mainly based on severity of symptoms, etiology and availability of medications. Prevention is based on proper maintaining the filtration systems at water plants, hand wash, and effectively use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Vaccination for some viruses, such as Rotavirus is a part of preventive measures.

Classification

Diarrhea can be classified as acute or chronic depending on the duration of onset of symptoms. Acute and chronic diarrhea can be further classified as follows:

Classification of Acute Diarrhea


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Acute diarrhea
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Infectious
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Non-Infectious
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bacterial
 
Viral
 
 
 
 
Fungal
 
Protozoa
 
 
 
 
 
Medications
 
 
Poisoning
 
 
Systemic illness
 
 
 

Classification of Chronic Diarrhea


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chronic diarrhea
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Watery
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Inflammatory
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Secretory
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Osmotic
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Differential Diagnosis of Diarrhea of other diseases

To review the differential diagnosis of diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of traveler's diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute watery diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute bloody diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute fatty diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic watery diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic bloody diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic fatty diarrhea, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute diarrhea and fever, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic diarrhea and fever, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute diarrhea and abdominal pain, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute diarrhea and weight loss, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic diarrhea and weight loss, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of acute diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss, click here.

To review the differential diagnosis of chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss, click here.

Diarrhea

The following table outlines the major differential diagnoses of diarrhea.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

Abbreviations: GI: Gastrointestinal, CBC: Complete blood count, WBC: White blood cell, RBC: Red blood cell, Plt: Platelet, Hgb: Hemoglobin, ESR: Erythrocyte sedimentation rate, CRP: C–reactive protein, IgE: Immunoglobulin E, IgA: Immunoglobulin A, ETEC: Escherichia coli enteritis, EPEC: Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, EIEC: Enteroinvasive Escherichia coli, EHEC: Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, EAEC: Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli, Nl: Normal, ASCA: Anti saccharomyces cerevisiae antibodies, ANCA: Anti–neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody, DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid, CFTR: Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, SLC10A2: Solute carrier family 10 member 2, SeHCAT: Selenium homocholic acid taurine or tauroselcholic acid, IEL: Intraepithelial lymphocytes, MRCP: Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, ANA: Antinuclear antibodies, AMA: Anti-mitochondrial antibody, LDH: Lactate dehydrogenase, CPK: Creatine phosphokinasePCR: Polymerase chain reaction, ELISA: Enzyme–linked immunosorbent assay, LT: Heat–labile enterotoxin, ST: Heat–stable enterotoxin, RT-PCR: Reverse–transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, CD4: Cluster of differentiation 4, HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus, RUQ: Right-upper quadrant, VIP: Vasoactive intestinal peptide, GI: Gastrointestinal, FAP: Familial adenomatous polyposis, HNPCC: Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, MTP: Microsomal triglyceride transfer protein, Scl‑70: Anti–topoisomerase I, TSH: Thyroid-stimulating hormone, T4: Thyroxine, T3: Triiodothyronine, DTR: Deep tendon reflex, RNA: Ribonucleic acid

Categories Cause Clinical manifestation Lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Symptoms GI signs
Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss
Stool exam CBC Other lab findings
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Gastrointestinal Crohn's disease + + + + ± + + + + Nl
  • Abnormal immune response to self antigens
Ulcerative colitis + + + + ± + + + + Nl
  • Abnormal immune response to self antigens
Celiac disease + ± ± + + Nl Nl Nl
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Cystic fibrosis + + ± + + Nl Nl Nl
Chronic pancreatitis + + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
Bile acid malabsorption + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
Microscopic colitis + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Infective colitis + + + + + + + + + Nl
Ischemic colitis + + + + + + + + + Nl
Lactose intolerance + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Lactose tolerance test
  • Genetic testing
  • Reduction of lactase enzyme activity or inability to produce persistent lactase
  • Congenital lactase deficiency
  • Secondary lactose malabsorption
Irritable bowel syndrome + ± ± ± Nl Nl Nl Nl Nl
  • Unknown
  • Diagnosis of exclusion
Infection Bacterial Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Whipple's disease + + + ± + + Nl ↓/↑
Tropical sprue + + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Diagnosis of exclusion
Small bowel bacterial overgrowth + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Diagnosis of exclusion
Pseudomembranous enterocolitis + + ± + + ± + + Nl
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
 Campylobacteriosis + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
Salmonellosis + + + + + + + + Nl Nl
Shigellosis + + + + + + + Nl ↑/↓
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Escherichia coli enteritis ETEC

(Traveler's diarrhea)

+ + + + Nl Nl Nl
EPEC + + + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
EIEC + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
EHEC + + + + + + Nl
EAEC + + + + + + + Nl
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Yersinia enterocolitica + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Vibrio cholera + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Aeromonas + + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Plesiomonas + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Mycobacterium avium complex + + + + + + + + Nl Nl
Food poisoning + + ± + + ± + ± Nl Nl Nl
  • History of travel or ingestion of infected food
Virus Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Norovirus + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Clinical diagnosis
Rotavirus + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
  • Stool immune–based assays
Echovirus + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
  • Clinical diagnosis
Adenovirus + + + + Nl
  • Viral antigen assay
Nl Nl Nl
  • Clinical diagnosis
CMV colitis + + + ± + + + Nl
  • Viral antigen assay
Nl Nl
HIV + + + + + + Nl Nl
  • HIV virologic (viral load) test
  • Immunoassay 
Parasite Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Entamoeba histolytica + + + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Antigen testing
  • Serology 
Giardia + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
  • Antigen detection assays
Cryptosporidium + + + + + Nl
  • Positive stool microscopy
Nl Nl Nl
  • Polymerase chain reaction
Microsporidia + + + + + + Nl
  • Positive stool microscopy
Nl Nl Nl
  • Decreased CD4 count
  • Antigen detection assays
Isospora + + + + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Detecting oocysts in the feces
Tumors Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Carcinoid tumor + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
VIPoma + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Primary secretory tumor
  • Blood VIP levels
  • Followed by imaging
Zollinger–Ellison syndrome + + + + + + Nl Nl
Somatostatinoma + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Lymphoma + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Primary tumor of GI tract
Colorectal cancer + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Medication/Toxicity Medications + + + ± ± + + ↑/↓ Nl Nl
  • Elevated plasma level of drug
  • Clinical evaluation after discontinuation of the drugs
Factitious diarrhea + + + + + ↑/↓ Nl Nl Nl
  • Clinical evaluation after discontinuation of the drugs
Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Heavy metal ingestion + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
  • Elevated plasma heavy metal level
  • Plasma level of heavy metal
Organophosphate poisoning + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
  • Clinical diagnosis
Opium withdrawal + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
Iatrogenic Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Short bowel syndrome + + + + + Nl Nl
Radiation enteritis + + + + + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Dumping syndrome + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
Others Cause Duration Diarrhea Fever Abdominal pain Weight loss GI signs Stool exam CBC Other lab findings Extra intestinal findings Cause/Pathogenesis Gold standard diagnosis
Acute Chronic Watery Bloody Fatty WBC RBC Ova/Parasite Osmotic gap Other WBC Hgb Plt
Abetalipoproteinemia + + + + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
Hyperthyroidism + + ± + + Nl Nl Nl Nl
Diabetic neuropathy + + + + + Nl Nl Nl
Systemic sclerosis + + ± + + + + Nl Nl Nl
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • Followed by serologic tests

Related Chapters

External Links

References

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