Tests and Diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to determine what’s causing your diarrhea may include:
- Physical exam: You’ll have your temperature measured to check for a fever. Your blood pressure and pulse may also be measured to check for signs of dehydration. Your doctor may also examine your abdomen for abdominal pain.
- Review of your medications: Your doctor may ask about any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs. Also, tell your doctor about any supplements you take.
- Blood test: A complete blood count test may help determine what’s causing your diarrhea.
- Stool test: Your doctor may recommend a stool test to determine whether a bacterium or parasite is causing your diarrhea.
Treatment and Drugs
Most cases of diarrhea clear on their own within a couple of days without treatment. If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and home remedies for diarrhea without success, your doctor may recommend medications or other treatments.
Antibiotics may help treat diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites. If a virus is causing your diarrhea, antibiotics won’t help.
Treatment to replace fluids
Your doctor likely will advise you to take steps to replace the fluids and salts lost during diarrhea. For most people, replacing fluids means drinking water, juice or broth. If drinking liquids upsets your stomach or causes diarrhea, your doctor may recommend getting fluids through a vein in your arm (intravenously).
Water is a good way to replace fluids, but it doesn’t contain the salts and electrolytes — minerals such as sodium and potassium — you need in order to maintain the electric currents that keep your heart beating. Disruption of your body’s fluid and mineral levels creates an electrolyte imbalance that can be serious. You can help maintain your electrolyte levels by drinking fruit juices for potassium or eating soups for sodium.
Adjusting medications you’re taking
If your doctor determines that an antibiotic medication caused your diarrhea, your doctor may modify your treatment plan by lowering your dose or switching to another medication.
Treating underlying conditions
If your diarrhea is caused by a more serious disease or condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease, your doctor will work to control that condition. You may be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, who can help devise a treatment plan for you.