Know the basics

What is constipation?

Constipation is a condition that is defined as infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools for a long period of time. Constipation is generally described as having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week. Constipation usually goes away if you change your lifestyle, but chronic constipation will be more difficult to treat and is often a symptom of other medical conditions.

How common is constipation?

Occasional episodes of constipation are very normal and will resolve on its own. This is usually due to food, stress or a different environment. Chronic constipation is also normal but may be a sign of a more serious problem. However, people who are more at risk for constipation are people who are elderly, obese, pregnant and sit a lot like office workers.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of constipation?

The common signs and symptoms of constipation are:

  • Difficult passage of stools;
  • Stools are dry or hard;
  • Bowel movements less than 3 times a week;
  • Abdominal bloating;
  • Stomach ache;
  • Blood in the stool or bleeding after bowel movement
  • Feeling you cannot completely empty the stool or there is a blockage.

Chronic constipation is considered if you have one or more of these symptoms lasting for at least three months.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Your symptoms last for more than 2 weeks;
  • Your symptoms can not be relieved by home remedies or non-prescription medications;
  • When there is blood in the stool;
  • If you have weight loss.

Constipation can be a sign of another health condition. It is important to see your doctor if you suspect a more serious problem.

Know the causes

What causes constipation?

Constipation occurs due to stool passing slower than usual, making the stool become hard and dry. Some causes of constipation may include:

  • Not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water;
  • Not being physically active and sitting all day;
  • Being pregnant;
  • Having stress or change in environment;
  • Some diseases may cause constipation such as diabetes, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis or hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid);
  • Bowel obstruction that may be caused by colorectal cancer, abdominal cancer, or anal fissure.
  • Some drugs can cause constipation such as pain medications, antihistamines and some antidepressants.

Constipation is not a serious condition, unless it is caused by a serious health condition. You can usually manage your constipation with lifestyle changes.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for constipation?

Lifestyle habits are often the main reason to cause mild constipation. If you have one of the following factors, you are more at risk for having constipation:

  • Being an older adult;
  • Being a woman;
  • Being pregnant;
  • Having a low-fiber diet or being dehydrated;
  • Getting little or no physical activity (usually office workers);
  • Being overweight or obese;
  • Taking drugs that cause constipation such as pain medications, sedatives or high blood pressure drugs.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is constipation diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose constipation based on medical history, including any recent lifestyle changes and medications you are currently taking. The doctor will also perform a physical examination to check the abdomen and rectum area for problems like hemorrhoids or any rectal tear.

If the stool contains blood, your doctor may perform a colonoscopy to exam inside the colon. There also may be some blood tests and x-rays needed. Please consult with your doctor for more information.

How is constipation treated?

Treatment for mild constipation can be very simple. You need to change your lifestyle habits. This includes:

  • More exercise (at least a few time a week);
  • Drinking more water (1.5 to 2 liters per day);
  • Eat more fiber;
  • Change your diet to include more fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, papaya or bananas.

When changing your lifestyle or diet does not help relieve your constipation, you can try non-prescription laxatives. Some laxatives may include:

  • Fiber supplements. Such as Metamucil®, Fibercon®, Konsyl® and Citrucel®. These products contain ingredients such as psyllium, methylcellulose, which help add bulk to your stool to speed up the passage of the stool.
  • Such as bisacodyl.
  • Osmotic laxatives. This may include lactulose, magnesium citrate or Fleet Enema®.
  • These laxatives contain mineral old that helps the stools to move through the colon easier.
  • Stool softeners. These laxatives usually help soften the stools.

Other treatments include training your pelvic muscles to relax and tighten or in more severe cases, may require surgery.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage constipation?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with constipation:

A healthy lifestyle is the best remedy for constipation patients. Some tips will help you manage of constipation:

  • Eat more fiber in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Drink enough water, especially during warm weather.
  • Avoid non-prescription drugs that can causes constipation such as antihistamines.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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