• Michael Fromm
  • Jörg-Dieter Schulzke
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-29676-8_483



Definition and Characteristics

The normal consistency of stool and frequency of bowel movements varies in a wide range due to diet composition (e.g. rate of vegetables) and individual factors. Diarrhea is characterized by alterations away from normal behavior and is defined, alone or together, by increases of:
  1. 1.

    Water content >80%, making feces more fluid than usual

  2. 2.

    Number of bowel movements per day, e.g. from usually 1 to >3 or from usually 2 to >5

  3. 3.

    Feces weight per day, e.g. from 100 g/d to >200 g/d or from 200 g/d to >400 g/d [1,2]

Acute diarrhea (<2–4 weeks) is usually caused by bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. In children, infection with rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea.

Chronic diarrhea (>4 weeks) is usually related to either organic disorders like the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease or celiac disease or to functional disorders like the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [3].


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    Schmitz H, Barmeyer C, Fromm M, Runkel N, Foss HD, Bentzel CJ, Riecken EO, Schulzke JD (1999) Altered tight junction structure contributes to the impaired epithelial barrier function in ulcerative colitis. Gastroenterology 116:301–309PubMedGoogle Scholar
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    Fasano A, Baudry B, Pumplin DW, Wasserman SS, Tall BD, Ketley JM, Kaper JB (1991) Vibrio cholerae produces a second enterotoxin, which affects intestinal tight junctions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 88:5242–5246PubMedGoogle Scholar
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    Sandle GL (2005) Pathogenesis of diarrhea in ulcerative colitis. New views on an old problem. J Clin Gastroenterol 39:S49–S52Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Fromm
    • 1
  • Jörg-Dieter Schulzke
    • 2
  1. 1.Clinical PhysiologyCampus Benjamin Franklin, CharitéBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Gastroenterology, Infectiology and RheumatologyCampus Benjamin Franklin, CharitéBerlinGermany