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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Diarrhea \Di`ar*rhe"a\, Diarrhoea \Di`ar*rh[oe]"a\, (d[imac]`ar*r[=e]"[.a]), n. [L. diarrhoea, Gr. dia`rroia, fr. dia`rrei^n to flow through; dia` + "rei^n to flow; akin to E. stream. See Stream.] (Med.) A morbidly frequent and profuse discharge of loose or fluid evacuations from the intestines, without tenesmus; a purging or looseness of the bowels; a flux.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

late 14c., from Old French diarrie, from Late Latin diarrhoea, from Greek diarrhoia "diarrhea" (coined by Hippocrates), literally "a flowing through," from diarrhein "to flow through," from dia- "through" (see dia-) + rhein "to flow" (see rheum). Respelled 16c. from diarria on Latin model.


n. 1 (context chiefly American spelling Canadian spelling English) A condition in which the sufferer has frequent and watery bowel movements. 2 The watery excrement that comes from said bowel movements.


n. frequent and watery bowel movements; can be a symptom of infection or food poisoning or colitis or a gastrointestinal tumor [syn: diarrhoea, looseness of the bowels]


Diarrhea, also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having at least three loose or liquid bowel movements each day. It often lasts for a few days and can result in dehydration due to fluid loss. Signs of dehydration often begin with loss of the normal stretchiness of the skin and irritable behaviour. This can progress to decreased urination, loss of skin color, a fast heart rate, and a decrease in responsiveness as it becomes more severe. Loose but non-watery stools in babies who are breastfed, however, may be normal.

The most common cause is an infection of the intestines due to either a virus, bacteria, or parasite; a condition known as gastroenteritis. These infections are often acquired from food or water that has been contaminated by stool, or directly from another person who is infected. It may be divided into three types: short duration watery diarrhea, short duration bloody diarrhea, and if it lasts for more than two weeks, persistent diarrhea. The short duration watery diarrhea may be due to an infection by cholera, although this is rare in the developed world. If blood is present it is also known as dysentery. A number of non-infectious causes may also result in diarrhea, including hyperthyroidism, lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, a number of medications, and irritable bowel syndrome. In most cases, stool cultures are not required to confirm the exact cause.

Prevention of infectious diarrhea is by improved sanitation, clean drinking water, and hand washing with soap. Breastfeeding for at least six months is also recommended as is vaccination against rotavirus. Oral rehydration solution (ORS), which is clean water with modest amounts of salts and sugar, is the treatment of choice. Zinc tablets are also recommended. These treatments have been estimated to have saved 50 million children in the past 25 years. When people have diarrhea it is recommended that they continue to eat healthy food and babies continue to be breastfed. If commercial ORS are not available, homemade solutions may be used. In those with severe dehydration, intravenous fluids may be required. Most cases; however, can be managed well with fluids by mouth. Antibiotics, while rarely used, may be recommended in a few cases such as those who have bloody diarrhea and a high fever, those with severe diarrhea following travelling, and those who grow specific bacteria or parasites in their stool. Loperamide may help decrease the number of bowel movements but is not recommended in those with severe disease.

About 1.7 to 5 billion cases of diarrhea occur per year. It is most common in developing countries, where young children get diarrhea on average three times a year. Total deaths from diarrhea are estimated at 1.26 million in 2013 – down from 2.58 million in 1990. In 2012, it was the second most common cause of deaths in children younger than five (0.76 million or 11%). Frequent episodes of diarrhea are also a common cause of malnutrition and the most common cause in those younger than five years of age. Other long term problems that can result include stunted growth and poor intellectual development.

Diarrhea (disambiguation)

Diarrhea refers to liquid bowel movements.

Diarrhea types:

  • Bovine virus diarrhea
  • Brainerd diarrhea
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Runner's diarrhea
  • Traveler's diarrhea

Diarrhea also refers to:

Usage examples of "diarrhea".

Diarrhea usually attends this complaint, together with difficult breathing, loss of strength, gradual decline, fever, diminution of vital forces, and finally death.

If the autonomic nervous system, which controls various functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and intestinal movement, gets out of balance, problems within the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems may very well occur and you may experience heart palpitations or diarrhea.

Every year, there was always some stupid tourist who decided to drink from the lake or dip themself a handful of meltwater and came down with violent diarrhea, and mouth sores that lasted for ten days.

He was tortured by tuberculosis, syphilis, osteomyelitis in his jaw, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and kidney stones.

If the inflammation is acute, the mouth is dry and parched, or as is more frequently the case, the flow of saliva is abundant and acrid, and, when swallowed, irritates the stomach and bowels, producing fever, diarrhea, griping pains, and flatulency.

While in the emergency ward he had massive diarrhea consisting of several quarts of watery fluid.

Over the next three hours he received three quarts of plasma and two quarts of salt water intravenously, to replace fluids lost from sweating and diarrhea.

Florian or Colonel Ramrod to excuse them from the next show, and often just minutes before they were due to go on, for fear that the cramps or the diarrhea were about to strike when they were variously on the trapeze, on a rosinback horse, on the tightrope or in one of the wild animal cages.

The condition of the bowels varies from constipation to diarrhea, although sometimes they are quite regular.

Osmundos and Guadalupes, Alfonsos and Violas, all suffering from infant diarrhea.

While hundreds were dying of scurvy and diarrhea, from the miserable, insufficient food, and lack of vegetables, these fellows had flour, fresh meat, onions, potatoes, green beans, and other things, the very looks of which were a torture to hungry, scorbutic, dysenteric men.

There were efficient palliatives to apply to her occasional rashes, and effective ways of ensuring that she received adequate nutrition in spite of her perennial tendency to gastric distress and diarrhea.

As the forces of the prisoners were reduced by confinement, want of exercise, improper diet, and by scurvy, diarrhea, and dysentery, they were unable to evacuate their bowels within the stream or along its banks, and the excrements were deposited at the very doors of their tents.

There were near five thousand seriously ill Federals in the Stockade and Confederate States Military Prison Hospital, and the deaths exceeded one hundred per day, and large numbers of the prisoners who were walking about, and who had not been entered upon the sick reports, were suffering from severe and incurable diarrhea, dysentery, and scurvy.

The general results of my investigations upon the chronic diarrhea and dysentery of the Federal prisoners of Andersonville were similar to those of the English surgeons during the war against Russia.