Constipation

Constipation is passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than three times per week. People who are constipated may find it difficult and painful to have a bowel movement. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the United States, resulting in about 2 million doctor visits annually.

Quick Facts

Symptoms

  • Hard, dry bowel movements, few than three times per week
  • Bloating
  • Feeling uncomfortable or sluggish 

 Common Causes:

  • Not enough fiber in the diet
  • Not enough liquids
  • Lack of exercise
  • Medications
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Changes in life or daily routines, such as pregnancy, older age, travel, etc.
  • Abuse of laxatives
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Specific diseases such as stroke (by far the most common)
  • Problems with the colon and rectum
  • Problems with intestinal function

Diagnosis:

Most people with constipation do not need extensive testing.
  • The doctor will review your medical history and ask you to describe your constipation.
  • The doctor will review your eating habits, medications, and level of physical activity/exercise.
  • Physical examination may be performed.
  • Additional tests may be ordered if determined necessary.

Common Treatments:

  • Diet recommendations to include more high fiber foods, and limiting foods that promote constipation.
  • Lifestyle changes which may include drinking more water and other liquids such as fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups.
  • Increasing daily physical activity/exercise.
  • Laxatives may be recommended under physicians guidelines for use.
  • Other treatments may be directed at a specific cause. 

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