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Causes of Watery Diarrhea

author image Lisabetta DiVita
Lisabetta Divita is a physician whose love for writing flourished while she was exposed to all facets of the medical field during her training. Her writings are currently featured in prominent medical magazines and various online publications. She holds a doctorate in medicine, a master's in biomedicine, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from Boston College.
Causes of Watery Diarrhea
Fecal impaction refers to hardened stool. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Watery diarrhea can be a signal of an underlying medical condition. For instance, viruses can infiltrate the digestive tract and affect stool formation. Sometimes, the intestines can become inflamed or the stool may be hardened. The causes of watery diarrhea can be managed with medications or surgery.


The Mayo Clinic says that cholera is an infectious disease that results from being exposed to contaminated water. Symptoms of cholera include persistent watery diarrhea that looks like rice-water, muscle cramping, vomiting, nausea, dehydration and low blood pressure. In children, cholera can lead to a fever, seizures, drowsiness and even a coma.

The cholera bacteria causes this medical condition. This bacteria attaches to the intestines and interferes with the sodium and potassium exchange that is necessary to regulate fluid in the body. The Mayo Clinic says that the cholera bacteria is typically found in raw shellfish, raw vegetables or fruits and grains like rice.

Treatment for cholera involves replacing fluids and electrolytes with oral rehydration salts, intravenous fluids and antibiotics such as azithromycin to destroy the cholera bacteria. Also, zinc supplements can be used to reduce diarrhea in children.

Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease characterized by persistent watery diarrhea, fatigue, a poor appetite, fever and crampy stomach pain. Crohn's disease can also lead to weight loss, joint pain, constipation, swollen gums, mouth ulcers, bloody stools or rectal bleeding.

The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown but the immune system plays a role in its development. MedlinePlus says that risk factors for Crohn's disease include being of Jewish descent, smoking and having a family history of Crohn's disease.

Treatment for Crohn's disease involves taking medications like corticosteroids, aminosalicylates, immunomodulators, biological therapy and antibiotics to manage Crohn's disease. Sometimes, surgery may be necessary to remove part of the damaged bowel.

Fecal Impaction

MedlinePlus says that fecal impaction refers to a hard stool that develops within the rectum. Specific symptoms of a fecal impaction include sudden watery diarrhea especially in people with chronic constipation, stomach pain and rectal bleeding. Fecal impaction can also lead to straining.

People who are bedridden and those taking such medications as narcotics, antidiarrhea medications, anticholinergics and methadone are prone to developing fecal impaction.

Treatment for fecal impaction involves taking medications such as stool softeners and laxatives. Simply adding grains, fruits and vegetables into the diet can help loosen the hardened stool. Also, exercising daily can also lead to regular bowel movements. Manual removal of the hardened stool via surgery or an enema can be helpful.

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