Clinical Presentation And Diagnosis Diagnosis

Patients with diarrhea should be questioned about the onset of symptoms, recent travel, diet, source of water, and medication use. Other important considerations include duration and severity of the diarrhea along with an accounting of the presence of associated abdominal pain or vomiting, blood in the stool, stool consistency, stool appearance, stool frequency, and weight loss. Although most cases of diarrhea are self-limited, infants, children, elderly persons, and immunocompromised patients are at risk for increased morbidity.

Findings on physical examination can assist in determining hydration status and disease severity. The presence of blood in the stool suggests an invasive organism, an inflammatory process, or perhaps a neoplasm. Large-volume stools suggest a small-intestinal disorder, whereas small-volume stools suggest a colon or rectal disorder. Patients with prolonged or severe symptoms may require colonoscopic evaluation to identify the underlying cause.

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