The symptom of diarrhea (= diarrhea) in general is when one heaps (more than 3 times a day) large amounts (more than 250ml per day) of bowel movements, which is too fluid (more than 75% water) and therefore unformed, Different symptoms can accompany this, which will be discussed in more detail below.


Acute diarrhea is said to last for a few days to a few weeks.
If more than 3 weeks of diarrhea occur, it is called chronic diarrhea.

stool consistency

The bowel movements can be different:

  • If the percentage of fat in the stool is too high, this is called the stool ( steatorrhea ). This looks greasy-shiny

  • In diseases of the liver or gallbladder with a deficiency of bile acids, the bowel movement is partially discolored, so bright.

  • Also, mucus may be added to the stool, which can occur in various diseases ( see also : Slimy bowel movement).

Further information can be found in our topic Stool.

Blood in the stool

Diarrhea can also be associated with blood in the stool. Bloody bowel movement as a symptom has a variety of causes (including infections, inflammation, colon cancer).

If there is blood in the stool, this may appear as a tarrene ( melena ). In this case, the bowel movement is black, as due to the contact of the red blood pigment (hemoglobin) with the stomach acid hematin arises, which leads to the color change. Tar chair is shiny black and smelly. This is mainly due to bleeding in the area of ​​the upper gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, upper small intestine).

Fresh blood in the stool ( hematochezia ) is more likely to indicate bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. It must be distinguished whether the blood is added to the stool or is superimposed on it. A bright red stool, which is subsequently found on the toilet paper, indicates a lesion on the rectum or anus (eg hemorrhoids).

Possible concomitant symptoms

Diarrhea is a symptom of various underlying diseases, which is often felt by the patient to be extremely uncomfortable and threatening.
Depending on the cause, accompanying symptoms can often provide clues. Common complications include:

  • stomach pain
  • bloating
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • fever
  • Tiredness, drowsiness and even coma with excessive loss of water and salts
  • Renal impairment due to reduced water content in the body
  • Cardiac arrhythmias due to changes in blood salts

In colorectal cancer, in addition to diarrhea, in some cases unwanted weight loss, fever, and night sweats are indications of a malignant disease.

Special forms of the symptom diarrhea:

Paradoxic (false) diarrhea
Here is the total amount of stools not increased, so max. 250 grams per day, with individual stools being watery and stool frequency increased. This occurs especially in constrictions of the intestine, for example, colon cancer, since only small amounts of stool can pass through the bottleneck. Irritation of the intestinal mucosa causes more water to be added to the stool. Due to the long residence time of the stool in the intestine it comes to the fermentation by the intestinal bacteria, which is why the chair smells very bad.

pseudo diarrhea
Here the amount of stool is increased as a whole (more than 250g / day), whereby the individual chairs are normally shaped. This is common in irritable bowel syndrome.

Concomitant symptoms of diarrhea in pregnancy

Diarrhea is more commonly associated with weakness, general malaise and abdominal pain in pregnant women. Especially with prolonged diarrhea, it comes through the strong loss of water to a drop in blood pressure with dizziness, malaise and weakness. The danger of a collapse is then also increased.
Pregnant women should therefore be very careful to drink enough. If the condition lasts longer, a doctor should also be consulted early. The pharmacist or doctor can inform you more about the use of certain medicines during pregnancy.

Concomitant symptoms of diarrhea in children

Diarrhea in infants and babies is more likely to be associated with fever. In addition, even smaller amounts of fluid loss can lead to threatening symptoms of reduced water content (dehydration). These include, for example:

  • Slackness and drowsiness
  • Changes in heart rhythm and
  • cramps

Symptoms of EHEC infection

Infection with the entero-hemorrhagic Eschericia coli bacterium can lead to severe, bloody diarrhea.

The bacterium forms toxins (toxins) that lead to destruction of the intestinal wall and blood vessels. Also in the kidneys and in the brain vessels are damaged by the toxins. This can lead to haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) during the course of the infection, which, in addition to acute renal failure (no more urine production with the accumulation of toxic substances in the blood), may also be accompanied by disorders of the nervous system. In infants and children, HUS is more common as a complication of EHEC infection.

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