What Is Osmotic Diarrhea?

Elderly with osmotic diarrhea might require intravenous fluids.
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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Diarrhea is the presence of frequent loose and primarily watery stools. This is a very common gastrointestinal condition and generally most people experience it at some point or another. There are different types of diarrhea. Osmotic diarrhea is a type that generally occurs due to something a person ingests. Most commonly diarrhea of this kind occurs due to a type of intolerance to certain sugars.

Osmotic diarrhea commonly results when something ingested draws water into the intestines, producing watery and loose stools. In many cases, this happens when a person is unable to properly absorb particular types of sugar. Artificial sweeteners, commonly found in food products like chewing gum, can cause this to happen. Additionally, fructose, which is used in a variety of products such as fruit juices and beverages, can cause this to happen. Sugar commonly found in dairy products such as milk can also cause this type of diarrhea.

In addition to a sudden change in stool frequency and consistency, individuals with osmotic diarrhea may also experience abdominal cramping. Sometimes, an individual will also experience general abdominal pain. There may also be a visible distention or bloating of the stomach. Occasionally, ongoing diarrhea may lead to other symptoms. For instance, some people may develop a fever or start to see spots of blood in their stool after a while.

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Osmotic diarrhea can affect anyone, especially, if he or she has a intolerance to sugar. It is important to be especially careful with babies, young children and senior citizens with this condition, because they can become dehydrated more rapidly. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of the signs of dehydration, in particularly with a baby or small child. Parents of a child with diarrhea who notices a decrease of wet diapers, a lack of tears when crying and a particularly sluggish or drowsy demeanor should seek medical help at once.

A professional diagnosis of osmotic diarrhea may be made by a medical doctor. He or she may make the official diagnosis after performing a complete examination. Patients may also be asked questions about their condition which may help to pinpoint this particular type of diarrhea. Some doctors may conduct certain tests also. For example, the stool output may be tested for a presence of blood.

In most cases, diarrhea will clear on its own. With osmotic diarrhea, this will typically happen once the sugar-containing product is fully evacuated from the system. Diarrhea in the elderly and very young may need to be treated though, as the condition can become dangerous more quickly in these individuals. If ongoing or chronic diarrhea leads to dehydration, the first method of treatment will generally be to replenish the lost fluids in the body. In an emergency, this may be done intravenously. To obtain osmotic diarrhea relief in a standard case, it is generally a good idea to avoid the food products that may have lead to the condition.

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