Causes of diarrhea

Likely causes of diarrhea according to epidemiologic characteristics

Traveler’s Diarrhea

• Bacterial infection (mostly acute)

• Protozoal infection (e.g., amebiasis, giardiasis)

• Tropical sprue

Epidemics and Outbreaks

• Bacterial infection

• Viral infection (e.g., rotavirus)

• Protozoal infections (e.g., cryptosporidiosis)

• Brainerd’s diarrhea (epidemic idiopathic secretory diarrhea)

Patients with AIDS

• Opportunistic infections (e.g., cryptosporidiosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes, Mycobacterium avium complex)

• Drug side effect

• Lymphoma

Institutionalized Patients

• Clostridium difficile toxin–mediated colitis

• Food poisoning

• Fecal impaction with overflow diarrhea

• Tube feeding

• Drug side effect

What are the likely causes of osmotic watery diarrhea? 

Osmotic laxatives (e.g., Mg 2 + , PO3–4PO43– , SO2–4SO42– ) and carbohydrate malabsorption.


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