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Diarrhea: Differential Diagnosis and Ways of Treatment

The correct diagnosing of a particular medical issue is a complex issue that demands the high level of competence from a therapist and utilization of appropriate questions to ensure that all essential elements are covered and considered while examining a patient. The first consultation with a health worker is critical for the whole treatment process as it preconditions outcomes and duration of treatment. Regarding the importance of this topic, the paper is devoted to the peculiarities of diagnosing patients with diarrhea, all questions that should be asked, tests to be obtained, and ways to handle this state.

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Diarrhea is a loose, watery, and specific bowel movements or stools that might indicate the existence of serious problems with health (Arasaradnam et al., 2018). That is why the following questions should be asked to collect the needed information

  1. How long does the patient have diarrhea?
  2. How often does he/she have it?
  3. What food or beverages does a person drink?
  4. Does he/she take any pills or antibiotics?
  5. What is the previous medical history?
  6. What are the color and consistency of the stool?
  7. Are there any other symptoms along with the watery bowel movements? (NIH, 2016).

Information acquired due to these questions will help to diagnose a patient and narrow the list of differential diagnoses. It is also critical to investigate the abdomen using a stethoscope and hear sounds it produces (NIH, 2016). A specialist should also tap on a patient’s abdomen to exam its tenderness or determine painful areas.

The physical examination should be followed by diagnostic tests to collect data critical for diagnosing. First of all, blood pressure and temperature should be measured. The second important aspect is the stool test that will detect the presence of bacteria, parasites or blood indicating particular health issues (NIH, 2016). A blood test should also be performed as it will show the signs of inflammation or the existence of diseases that result in the emergence of watery bowel movements. Finally, in complex cases when the complete image remains unclear, endoscopy can be used to find factors causing diarrhea by looking inside the body.

The acquired findings should be analyzed and handled to achieve an improved understanding of the current state. In the majority of cases, the tests mentioned above are enough to determine the character and nature of the given disease. However, if some abnormal findings emerge, additional tests can be performed. First, colonoscopy can be used to investigate the intestinal canal and find if there are some inflamed or damaged areas (Arasaradnam et al., 2018). Moreover, in some cases, abnormal findings might mean the existence of a systemic and more complex health problem that should be tested (Arasaradnam et al., 2018). For this reason, consultations with other specialists can be organized.

Speaking about diarrhea, the is a traditional list of differentials that can be suggested while examining patients with this health issue:

  • Appendicitis;
  • Food poisoning or intoxication;
  • Gastritis;
  • Infection;
  • Colitis;
  • Carcinoid tumor;
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Guandalini, 2018).

In general, there are many health problems associated with the given symptom. For this reason, it is essential to prescribe appropriate tests that will provide the needed information and narrow the list of possible options.

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Altogether, diarrhea is a common health issue that emerges in millions of patients every year. For this reason, a health worker should be ready to work with it by asking appropriate questions and making the needed tests to diagnose a person and initiate the effective treatment aimed at the complete recovery and improvement of the quality of life.


Arasaradnam, R., Brown, S., Forbes, A., Fox, M., Hungin, P., Kelman, L., …Walters, J. (2018). Guidelines for the investigation of chronic diarrhoea in adults: British Society of Gastroenterology, 3rd edition. Gut, 67(8), 1380-1399. Web.

Guandalini, S. (2018). Diarrhea differential diagnoses. Web.

NIH. (2016). Diagnosis of diarrhea. Web.

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