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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.
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