Burning Diarrhea

Diarrhea is defined as watery, loose stools that typically occur three or more times a day. Burning diarrhea is usually caused by skin irritation, spicy foods, or an underlying medical condition.

Burning diarrhea may be accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms, such as abdominal pain and rectal itching. To treat burning diarrhea, it's important to first learn the cause. Once the cause is determined, then you can find the appropriate treatment to help relieve your symptoms.

This article will discuss burning diarrhea symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. It will also cover complications associated with burning diarrhea and when to contact a healthcare provider.

Man in the bathroom holding toilet paper, about to use the toilet

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Symptoms of Burning Diarrhea

Burning diarrhea symptoms will vary based on its cause. Along with the burning sensation during a bowel movement, some people will experience additional symptoms, such as:

When diarrhea is caused by an infection, either bacterial or viral, it can be accompanied by a fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

Causes of Burning Diarrhea

There are several reasons someone might have burning diarrhea. It can be acute, meaning it lasts for only a short time, or it can be chronic, lasting for four weeks or more. Here are potential causes of burning diarrhea:

  • Spicy foods: Eating spicy foods, like peppers or hot sauce, can cause burning diarrhea. Peppers contain a component called capsaicin that can irritate the skin and other parts of the body, such as the digestive tract. The gut responds to this by moving food out more quickly, resulting in diarrhea. During a bowel movement, the capsaicin and digestive juices can cause a burning sensation.
  • Anal fissure: An anal fissure is a crack or tear in the anus. It can happen when the anus is stretched beyond its normal capacity, often with constipation and when straining during a bowel movement. When someone has an anal fissure and diarrhea, it can cause a burning sensation.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that causes bowel changes, such as diarrhea and constipation. Repeated episodes of diarrhea or constipation can irritate the skin surrounding the anus and cause burning.
  • Skin irritation: The anus and skin surrounding it can become irritated for various reasons, including washing with scented soaps or wiping too aggressively. When the skin is red and irritated, diarrhea can cause pain and burning as it moves over the skin.
  • Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are a common condition that can lead to discomfort while going to the bathroom (for some people). Hemorrhoids occur when the veins in the rectum and/or the anus become swollen and painful. They can bleed and cause pain, especially while having diarrhea or wiping.

What Medications Can Cause Burning Diarrhea?

Medications typically are not a direct cause of diarrhea, but certain drugs may trigger a series of events that could lead to it. One type of medication that could lead to burning diarrhea is antibiotics.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. While the medication is effective at killing the bacteria that are causing the illness, it can also eliminate protective "good" bacteria. When healthy bacteria are killed in the intestine, it can allow unhealthy bacteria to multiply.

One "bad" bacteria that can take over is called Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile or C. diff). This bacteria can lead to diarrhea and other symptoms, such as stomach pain and fever. Diarrhea can be very frequent, which may then lead to skin irritation around the anus, potentially causing a burning pain.

How to Treat Burning Diarrhea

Treating burning diarrhea is aimed at managing the underlying cause. In many cases, stopping the diarrhea altogether can also stop the burning sensation associated with it.

You can often treat acute diarrhea with over-the-counter (OTC) antidiarrheal medications, including Imodium (loperamide) and Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate). These work in different ways to slow or stop diarrhea. Pepto-Bismol can also help treat other symptoms you may be experiencing, such as upset stomach or nausea.

If diarrhea is caused by spicy foods, avoid these foods in the future. The capsaicin in peppers can cause irritation and pain, so it's best to stop eating any foods that contain it.

A burning sensation during diarrhea that is caused by anal fissures or skin irritation around the anus can be treated by healing the skin. For anal fissures, topical medications can be used, such as nitrates or calcium blockers. For skin irritation, a skin barrier cream (such as zinc oxide) can be used. Avoid wiping or rubbing the skin aggressively, as this can irritate the skin further. Contact a healthcare provider if symptoms do not improve.

IBS is diagnosed by a healthcare professional based on symptoms and medical history. If burning diarrhea is caused by IBS, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider about a treatment plan. IBS treatment is individualized based on symptoms.

No matter the cause of diarrhea, it's important to replace any lost fluids to prevent dehydration. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes.

Complications Associated With Diarrhea

Untreated diarrhea—whether it's burning or not—can lead to dehydration. During bouts of diarrhea, the body loses more fluids than usual. If these fluids are not replaced, there is a risk of dehydration. Severe dehydration can cause organ damage or even shock.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Burning Diarrhea?

If your diarrhea has not resolved with OTC medications or lifestyle remedies, it's wise to check in with your healthcare provider. A healthcare provider can help determine the cause of your burning diarrhea so you can get the appropriate treatment.

If the cause is not clear through a health history and physical exam, then additional testing may be necessary. These tests may include:

  • Stool culture and testing: A stool sample is taken to a lab and examined. This can determine if there's abnormal bacteria in your digestive tract.
  • Colonoscopy: A tube is inserted in the large intestine to look for abnormal growths and take tissue samples for biopsy.
  • Food fasting test: This test can help determine if there is a food intolerance or allergy.
  • Blood test: Blood samples are drawn to look for anemia, abnormal vitamin levels, or celiac disease.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Burning diarrhea is not usually a serious condition, but if you or someone you know experiences the following symptoms, contact a healthcare provider:

  • Dehydration
  • For adults: Diarrhea that lasts two days
  • For children: Diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours
  • Stools that contain blood or are black and tarry
  • Fever of 102 degrees or greater
  • Significant abdominal or rectal pain


Burning diarrhea is a symptom that can be caused by spicy food, skin irritation, an anal fissure, or other conditions. When the cause is identified, treatment is focused on managing the underlying condition and alleviating symptoms. If the cause is unclear or symptoms don't resolve, it's wise to contact a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis. They'll be able to offer treatment options to help you find relief from burning diarrhea.

A Word From Verywell

Burning diarrhea can be an embarrassing topic to discuss with your healthcare provider. However, it's important to treat it as soon as possible to avoid further complications. Burning diarrhea may be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, which needs to be identified and treated. Even if you don't have an underlying condition, when diarrhea goes on for too long it can cause dehydration.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should I do if my diarrhea burns?

    If someone has burning diarrhea, the first step is to determine the cause. The next step is to stop the diarrhea with OTC medications and heal the skin around the anus.

  • How do I prevent burning diarrhea?

    Preventing burning diarrhea starts with understanding the triggers and causes of diarrhea. From there, you can take steps to avoid triggers, if possible.

    To lower your risk of getting a burning sensation, avoid foods that can contribute to it, such as spicy foods, and wipe gently to avoid irritation or tears.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.