If you have diarrhea lasting for two weeks or longer, it is considered chronic diarrhea according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The causes of chronic diarrhea can range from irritable bowel syndrome, a less serious condition, to more serious conditions such as crohn's disease. The CDC explains that in some cases, the cause is unknown.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), referred to as an intestinal disorder by the CDC, causes a great deal of discomfort, but does not cause any permanent damage to the intestines, nor does it lead to a serious disease, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).
The NDDIC estimates that as many as 20 percent of the adult population suffer from symptoms of IBS. This makes it one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders by doctors, occurring more frequently in women than in men, as the site states.
Aside from the diarrhea, other symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating. It should be noted that symptoms do vary from person to person, and some may suffer from constipation.
Crohn's disease is a chronic disorder belonging to a larger group of illnesses referred to as irritable bowel disease (IBD). The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) explains that crohn's disease is responsible for inflammation of either the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and while it can affect any area of the GI tract between the mouth and anus, it has a tendency to affect the small intestine and/or colon.
The CCFA states that while researchers do not yet know exactly what causes this disease, the inflammation in IBD involves a number of factors including inherited genes, a weak immune system and foreign substances in the environment.
Aside from persistent diarrhea, other symptoms include crampy abdominal pain, fever and rectal bleeding on occasion. Fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss may also occur.
Unlike irritable bowel syndrome, crohn's disease can affect other areas of the body such as the eyes, liver, joints and skin. Delayed growth and sexual development may occur in children.
Some people begin using laxatives early on, resulting in dependency and daily use, according to Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology, specialists in diseases of the digestive system. The site states that the most common names of these stimulants include magnesium, phenolphthalein and cascara. These stimulant laxatives, when used for a long period of time, can damage the wall of your colon, resulting in chronic diarrhea. It is for this reason that these laxatives should be used with caution and only for a short period of time.
The Mayo Clinic, CDC and Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology state that prescription medications can cause chronic diarrhea, which at times can be severe. The most common culprits are antibiotics due to their tendency to destroy both good and bad bacteria in the body.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, a disruption of bacteria in your intestines occurs as the prescribed antibiotic destroys the good bacteria in your body. It is this disruption that results in diarrhea. Jackson Siegelbaum states that the diarrhea can develop up to a month after the antibiotic has been taken.