People with diabetes are more likely to experience chronic diarrhea than the general population. Researchers believe this is the often the result of a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. This diarrhea often comes and goes, and it may be accompanied by an inability to control bowel movements. Short-term treatment may involve medications that relieve symptoms; medications used for long-term control of diabetic diarrhea include Catapres, certain antibiotics, and somatostatin analogs.
People with diabetes can get diarrhea just like anyone else. Common causes include viral or bacterial infections and certain medical conditions, such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (see Diarrhea Causes). Some medications used to treat diabetes also can cause diarrhea. Yet diabetics are also more likely than most people to get chronic diarrhea because of their condition. This is known as diabetic diarrhea.
There are several reasons why diabetic diarrhea is thought to occur. Sometimes it occurs because of overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. It may also occur because of problems with the pancreas, which leads to poor absorption of nutrients. However, researchers believe that the most common reason involves a condition called diabetic neuropathy.
People with diabetes can, over time, have damage to nerves throughout the body. This is known as diabetic neuropathy. This condition can lead to numbness, and sometimes pain and weakness, in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. However, diabetic neuropathy can also cause problems in every organ system, including the digestive tract.
Nerve damage to the bowels can cause constipation alternating with frequent, uncontrolled diarrhea. Problems with the digestive system may also lead to weight loss (see Diabetic Neuropathy Symptoms for more information).
There are several types of diabetic neuropathy. The type that affects the intestines and can cause diarrhea is known as autonomic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy appears to be more common in people who:
- Have had problems controlling their blood glucose levels
- Have high levels of blood fat and blood pressure
- Are overweight (see BMI Calculator to find out if your weight is in a healthy range)
- Are over the age of 40.