Diarrhea in diabetics often comes and goes. It may alternate with periods of normal bowel movements or with constipation. It is typically painless, occurring both during the day as well as at night. It may also occur with the inability to control bowel movements (fecal incontinence).
In order to diagnose diabetic diarrhea, the healthcare provider will typically ask a number of questions, perform a physical exam, and recommend certain tests or procedures. This step-wise approach is used to detect many of the common causes of diarrhea -- both in people with and without diabetes.
(Click Diagnosing Diarrhea to learn about specific tests that may be used to help diagnose diarrhea in diabetics.)
Treatment for diabetic diarrhea can be difficult. Often, treatments are aimed at dealing with symptoms, but they do not address the underlying cause. For short-term relief of symptoms, the healthcare provider may recommend medicine such as loperamide (Imodium®) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol® and Kaopectate®). Loperamide slows down the speed of fluids moving through your intestines. Bismuth subsalicylate works by balancing the way fluid moves through your intestines.
For long-term control, the healthcare provider may recommend one of the following medicines:
- Clonidine hydrochloride (Catapres®)
- Antibiotics such as tetracycline
- Somatostatin analogs such as octreotide (Sandostatin®).