Drug-induced diarrhea : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Diarrhea associated with medications

Definition

Drug-induced diarrhea is loose, watery stools caused by certain medications.

See also: Diarrhea

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Nearly all medications may cause diarrhea as a side effect. Some medications, however, are more prone to cause diarrhea than others. For example:

  • Laxatives can and are meant to produce diarrhea by drawing water into the gut or increasing the muscle contractions of the intestine. However, taking too much of a laxative, or taking a laxative without being aware of it can cause diarrhea that is a problem.
  • Antibiotics can produce diarrhea by destroying the bacteria of the gut. In some cases, antibiotics can allow a type of bacteria called Clostridium difficile to grow in excess. This can lead to infection and produce a severe, watery form of diarrhea called pseudomembranous colitis.
  • Other drugs may be directly toxic to the digestive tract. Chemotherapy medicines for cancer, or medications that suppress the immune system (such as mycophenolate) are a common cause of diarrhea.
  • Some herbal teas contain senna or other “natural” laxatives that can cause diarrhea.

Pictures & Images

Digestive system organs

The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

Drug-induced diarrhea : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors


Review Date : 1/20/2010
Reviewed By : Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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