Chronic Diarrhea in the Older Adult

  • Lawrence R. SchillerEmail author
Living reference work entry


Diarrhea is a common problem in all age groups. It can be particularly troubling in older individuals, especially those who are frail, because of secondary problems such as fecal incontinence or fluid and electrolyte disorders. Physiologic fitness may be impaired in older individuals due to senescence of the immune system, decreased renal function, abnormal nutritional status, and the accumulation of chronic diseases. Some conditions appear to be more common in elders, and it is important to realize that the presentation of illnesses in older individuals may be different than in younger patients. Diarrhea may be more or less severe and its response to treatment may be different than in younger individuals. Quality of life may be impacted more intensely in the old, and diarrhea may lead to institutionalization, especially individuals affected by fecal incontinence. This chapter will review some of the changes in intestinal structure and function that occur with normal aging, common conditions that may cause diarrhea in the geriatric population, and rational approaches to evaluation and management of chronic diarrhea.


Diarrhea Fecal incontinence Intestinal fluid and electrolyte absorption Malabsorption |Infectious diarrhea Chronic diarrhea Diagnosis and management Antidiarrheal drugs 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Baylor University Medical CenterDallasUSA
  2. 2.Texas A&M College of Medicine, Dallas Campus DallasUSA

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