Fast Five Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Common Conditions Associated With Diarrhea?

Jamie Shalkow, MD; Felipe Sarlat


August 07, 2018

Diarrhea is the passage of loose or watery stools at least three times in a day. It results from reversal of the normal net absorptive status of water and electrolyte absorption to secretion. The augmented water content in the stools of > 20 mL/kg/d in infants and young children (< 22 lbs [< 20 kg]) or in > 200 g/d in older children, teenagers, and adults is due to an imbalance in the physiology of the small and large intestinal processes involved in the absorption of ions, organic substrates, and thus, water.

Acute diarrhea is defined as the abrupt onset of three or more loose stools per day and lasts no longer than 14 days, persistent diarrhea is defined as an episode that lasts longer than 14 but less than 30 days, and chronic diarrhea as an episode lasting over 30 days. The distinction has implications not only for classification and epidemiologic studies but also from a practical standpoint because protracted diarrhea often has different etiologies, poses different management problems, and has a different prognosis. Conservative estimates put diarrhea in the top five causes of death worldwide, with most occurring in young children from low and middle-income countries, where diarrheal illness is the second leading cause of mortality among children younger than 5 years and causes 1.5 to 2 million deaths annually worldwide. In resource-limited countries, infants experience a median of six episodes annually and children younger than 5 years experience a median of three episodes annually. In high-income countries, diarrheal diseases are also a significant cause for morbidity across all age groups.

The clinical presentation, course, and treatment of diarrhea therefore depend on its cause and on the host. Are you familiar with various conditions associated with acute or chronic diarrhea? Test yourself with this short quiz.


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