, Volume 1, Issue 5, pp 389-397

Secretory diarrhea

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Diarrhea, defined as loose stools, occurs when the intestine does not complete absorption of electrolytes and water from luminal contents. This can happen when a nonabsorbable, osmotically active substance is ingested ("osmotic diarrhea") or when electrolyte absorption is impaired ("secretory diarrhea"). Most cases of acute and chronic diarrhea are due to the latter mechanism. Secretory diarrhea can result from bacterial toxins, reduced absorptive surface area caused by disease or resection, luminal secretagogues (such as bile acids or laxatives), circulating secretagogues (such as various hormones, drugs, and poisons), and medical problems that compromise regulation of intestinal function. Evaluation of patients with secretory diarrhea must be tailored to find the likely causes of this problem. Specific and nonspecific treatment can be valuable.