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Diarrhea Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms include:

  • Frequent, loose, liquid stools
  • Abdominal pain, cramping
  • Urgent need to defecate
  • Blood and/or mucus in stool
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. To determine the cause of your diarrhea, the doctor will ask questions, such as:

  • Does anyone else in your family have diarrhea?
  • What kinds of food have you eaten recently?
  • Do you drink well water?
  • Do your children attend daycare?
  • Have you traveled recently?
  • Do you use laxatives?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Do you have any symptoms other than diarrhea (eg, fever, rash, aching joints)?
  • What is your sexual history?
  • Have you ever had abdominal surgery?

Tests may include:

  • Laboratory analysis of a stool sample
  • Blood tests
  • Fasting or food elimination tests
  • Digital rectal exam—examination of the rectum with the doctor's gloved finger inserted into your rectum
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy —a thin, lighted tube inserted into the rectum to examine the rectum and the lower colon.
  • Colonoscopy —a thin, lighted tube inserted through the rectum and into the colon to examine the lining of the colon
  • Biopsy —removal of a sample of colon tissue for testing. This may be performed as part of a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
  • Upper GI Series —a series of x-rays of the upper digestive system taken after drinking a barium solution (also called barium swallow)
  • Barium enema —insertion of fluid into the rectum that makes the lining of your colon show up on an x-ray

Barium Enema

Radiology colon
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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