Everyone occasionally has diarrhea — loose, watery and more-frequent bowel movements. You might also have abdominal cramps and produce a greater volume of stool. The duration of diarrhea symptoms can provide a clue to the underlying cause.

Acute diarrhea lasts from 2 days to 2 weeks. Persistent diarrhea lasts 2 to 4 weeks. Acute and persistent diarrhea are typically caused by a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection of some sort.

Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than does acute or persistent diarrhea, generally more than four weeks. Chronic diarrhea can indicate a serious disorder, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, or a less serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Aug. 11, 2023

See also

  1. Addison's disease
  2. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
  3. Agoraphobia
  4. Amyloidosis
  5. Anaphylaxis
  6. Anaphylaxis: First aid
  7. Anthrax
  8. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  9. Appendicitis
  10. Ascariasis
  11. AskMayoMom Pediatric Urology
  12. Aspirin allergy
  13. Bee sting
  14. Behcet's disease
  15. Bird flu (avian influenza)
  16. Blastocystis hominis
  17. C. difficile infection
  18. Carcinoid syndrome
  19. Carcinoid tumors
  20. Celiac disease
  21. Chagas disease
  22. Cholera
  23. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  24. Colon cancer
  25. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  26. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  27. Colon cancer screening
  28. Colon polyps
  29. Colorectal Cancer
  30. Crohn's Crisis
  31. Crohn's disease
  32. Crohn's disease and the gut microbiome
  33. What is Crohn's disease? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  34. Crohn's or Colitis
  35. Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  36. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection
  37. Diabetes insipidus
  38. Diabetic neuropathy
  39. Diabetic neuropathy and dietary supplements
  40. Types of diabetic neuropathy
  41. Diverticulitis
  42. Drug allergy
  43. E. coli
  44. Ear infection (middle ear)
  45. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  46. Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  47. Endometriosis
  48. What is endometriosis? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  49. Endometriosis FAQs
  50. Fecal incontinence
  51. Flu masks
  52. Flu vaccine: Safe for people with egg allergy?
  53. Food poisoning
  54. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  55. GI Stents
  56. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  57. Graves' disease
  58. H1N1 flu (swine flu)
  59. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  60. Hirschsprung's disease
  61. HIV/AIDS
  62. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  63. Inflammatory bowel disease FAQs
  64. Intestinal ischemia
  65. Intestinal obstruction
  66. Intussusception
  67. Irritable bowel syndrome
  68. Is there a special diet for Crohn's disease?
  69. Ischemic colitis
  70. Jet lag disorder
  71. Kawasaki disease
  72. Lactose intolerance
  73. Legionnaires' disease
  74. Listeria infection
  75. Living better with Crohn's disease
  76. Maintain your social life with Crohn's disease
  77. Malaria
  78. Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoiding summer E. coli infection
  79. Mayo Clinic Minute: What you need to know about polyps in your colon
  80. Median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS)
  81. Mesenteric lymphadenitis
  82. Milk allergy
  83. Myocarditis
  84. What is ulcerative colitis? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  85. Nicotine dependence
  86. Norovirus infection
  87. He's the bravest kid I've ever seen
  88. Living with an ostomy
  89. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome
  90. Peanut allergy
  91. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  92. Peritonitis
  93. Plague
  94. Porphyria
  95. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  96. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  97. Preterm labor
  98. Primary biliary cholangitis
  99. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  100. Proctitis
  101. Pseudomembranous colitis
  102. Radiation sickness
  103. Rectal cancer
  104. Reye's syndrome
  105. Roseola
  106. Rotavirus
  107. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  108. Scleroderma
  109. Self-care for the flu
  110. Serotonin syndrome
  111. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  112. Shellfish allergy
  113. Shigella infection
  114. Smallpox
  115. Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  116. Spastic colon: What does it mean?
  117. Staying active with Crohn's disease
  118. Sulfa allergy
  119. Tapeworm infection
  120. Tips for easing stress when you have Crohn's disease
  121. Toxic shock syndrome
  122. Trichinosis
  123. Typhoid fever
  124. Ulcerative colitis
  125. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  126. Vesicoureteral reflux
  127. How irritable bowel syndrome affects you
  128. Vitamin deficiency anemia
  129. What's the difference between H1N1 flu and influenza A?
  130. Wheat allergy
  131. Where can I learn more about living with Crohn's disease?
  132. Whipple's disease
  133. Fecal transplant treatment of C. difficile at Mayo Clinic
  134. Mayo Clinic study reporting increased incidence of C. difficile infection
  135. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome