ACUTE Diarrhea and Skin Symptoms

Acute, sudden onset diarrhea occurring together with skin symptoms, like itch, tingling, swelling or rash may be caused by: 

  • Childhood viral infections, like measles, scarlatina, rubella, chicken pox, infectious mononucleosis
  • Food allergies may cause itchy skin and urticaria (a patchy, pinkish, slightly raised bumpy or patchy rash, known as hives) - due to histamine released in the skin.
  • Ciguatera fish poisoning after eating big tropical fish, like barracuda (Picture 1), amberjack, grouper, snapper, sturgeon, king mackerel or moray eel that have accumulated ciguatoxin from reef algae, mainly present in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, Hawaii, Indonesia, Micronesia or Australia (1). Symptoms – diarrhea, dizziness, lips or skin tingling and reversal of hot and cold sensation – may start from few minutes to 30 hours after fish intake, may last from several days to years (ciguatoxin is dissolved in body fats and then slowly released) and cease on their own through the time. There is no known diagnostic test and treatment for ciguatera poisoning; prevention is by avoiding eating big tropical fish.
  • Scombroid fish poisoning is due to histamine build-up in big fish like tuna, mackerel, albacore, bonito, skip jack, mahi-mahi that were not properly preserved after being caught. Histamine may cause flushing, difficult breathing, vomiting or diarrhea within 2 minutes to 2 hours after fish intake and may last for few hours. Diagnosis is made from history of  fish intake; treatment is by stomach pumping or inducing vomiting and by antihistamines (2).
  • Seafood from coastal waters (shrimps, oysters) may accumulate arsenic from industrial pollution and, if eaten in excess, cause acute diarrhea. Mentioned toxins are not destroyed by cooking; poisoning is rarely fatal though.
  • Acute viral hepatitis A, B or C may cause nausea, diarrhea, jaundice and skin rash.
  • A gallstone blocking the common bile duct  usually causes right upper abdominal pain, white diarrhea, itching all over and jaundice.

Tropical fish Barracuda

Picture 1. Ingesting big tropical fish like barracuda
may cause ciguatera poisoning.
(source: Wikimedia)

CHRONIC Diarrhea and Skin Symptoms

Chronic, long lasting or recurrent diarrhea occurring together with skin rash may be caused by:

  • Intestinal worms
  • Chronic liver disease, like:
    • Chronic hepatitis B (non-itchy rash, nausea, jaundice, diarrhea)
    • Cirrhosis (accumulation of fluid in the stomach, jaundice, poor appetite, diarrhea)
  • Chronic renal failure due to a kidney disease. Diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, changed color of the urine and itchy skin rash are main symptoms.
  • Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the bowel; symptoms include chronic diarrhea, low grade fever, a non-itchy skin rash and mouth ulcers.
  • Celiac disease; symptoms include chronic diarrhea triggered by cereals containing gluten, a non-itchy skin rash, mouth ulcers. 

Related Articles:

References:

  1. Ciguatera fish poisoning  (edis.ifas.ufl.edu)
  2. Scombroid fish poisoning  (cdc.gov)

Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on August 3, 2013