Constipation: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is constipation?

Constipation refers to bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. The stool is often hard and dry. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, and feeling as if one has not completely passed the bowel movement.

Generally, constipation may occur if there are not enough bowel movements (not more than 3) in a span of 7 days. Constipation is commonly experienced by adults. In most cases, it can go away quickly with the proper diet and enough fluids.

Irritable bowel syndrome for IBS is one of the reasons constipation can occur. In some cases, people report facing constipation each and every day from their childhood. It may be normal for them.

How does it affect the body?

Constipation can occur when the colon in your body absorbs too much of water molecules. Therefore it can make the passage towards the rectum rough and not facilitated.

As a result, one might feel stomach pain which can be persistent if proper measure for balancing the diet is not taken.

In rare cases, it can be really difficult to defecate and bloody stool may come out. Contact your doctor as soon as possible in such cases.

During constipation, the muscles of the colon can act improperly. It can happen due to poor movements of the muscles and more water absorption. During constipation, the body is unable to dispose of the waste materials properly. Therefore if it can last more than three weeks, it becomes chronic constipation.

In severe cases, chronic constipation can cause hemorrhoids, anal fissures, impaction and rectal prolapse.

What are the causes of constipation?

 The causes which are considered for the occurrence of constipation are as follows:

  • Poor diet: if your diet does not consist of enough fibers, you may get constipation.
  • Not drinking water: during constipation, water is absorbed readily from the colon. Therefore you should drink more water during constipation.
  • Lack of exercise: lack of exercise and not being active can also cause constipation.
  • Poor toilet habits: dirty/unclean toiletry habits can also lead to constipation.
  • Stress: taking too much stress is also one of the common factors of causing it.
  • Medication: inform your doctor if you are currently under other medication which may contradict with this condition.
  • Laxative abuse: laxative abuse can lead to tightening of the rectum which in turn causes constipation.
  • Bowel cancer: constipation is also seen in patients with Bowel cancer or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • irritable bowel syndrome: it occurs when there is not enough movement to push waste forward.
  • neurological conditions: for some patients for neurological conditions may be the reason for constipation.
  • Traveling: Travellers are more likely to acquire constipation.
  • Pregnancy: the case of mothers suffering from constipation while pregnant is common.

What are the risk factors?

Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) issues in the United States. It is affecting about 42 million people( nearly 15 percent of the population), according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The risk factors for the occurrence of constipation are given down as below:

  • constipation can occur to anyone and everyone. Everyone will undergo constipation minimum two or three times in their lifetime. For some people, it may go away quickly, for some people it may turn to chronic constipation.
  • Females are at higher risk of acquiring constipation.
  • If you are aged above 65 years old, you are more likely to get constipation.
  • Low-income families show the chances of getting constipation more.
  • People from non-European ancestry backgrounds are more likely to get constipation.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

 The symptoms of constipation are given down as below.

  • Passing fewer than 3 stools in 7 days
  • Having lumpy or hard stools during defecation
  • Straining to have bowel movements
  • Feeling as though there’s a blockage in your rectum that prevents bowel movements
  • Feeling as though you can’t completely empty the stool from your rectum

What is the diagnosis of constipation?

Constipation in its mild form is not that harmful. However, you should take caution if he turns into chronic constipation. Go and immediately see a doctor and explain your problems to him or her. At first, the doctor will ask you to perform some tests. These are given as below:

  • blood tests to look for hypothyroidism for low secretion of thyroid hormones.
  • Sigmoidoscopy or the sigmoid colon is checked with a flexible tube containing a camera. It is inserted through the rectal cavity.
  • Colonoscopy can be done where the doctor will check your colon for any impairments.
  • In severe cases, anorectal manometry can be done where a balloon dilation is required.
  • The anal sphincter muscles are checked with the help of equipment for their proper functionality.
  • Colon transit study can be done where the movement of food particles inside the cold one is monitored carefully.
  • X-ray defecography or MRI defecography. These are the techniques where imaging is done of the rectum during defecation for understanding better.

What is the prevention or control?

  • Treatment for constipation includes having fibrous substances in your diet. Balance your diet properly. Diet adjustment is required for proper results.
  • You have to eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and grains. This will maintain the fiber balance in your body. By keeping your diet organic, you can help in the proper movement of your gut or stomach.
  • You should drink lots and lots of water to stay hydrated. It is also important to stay active and exercise regularly.

What are the treatment options for constipation?

The treatment options for constipation are given down as below:

  1. Maintain regularity and do not ignore the urge to go. Maintain a healthy diet with lots of vegetables. Exercise and reduce stress. Stay well hydrated.
  2. However, laxatives are available in the market to treat constipation. The options available in laxatives are bulk-forming laxatives or fibre supplements, osmotic  laxatives, stimulant laxatives, suppositories and other medicines.
  3. Biofeedback pelvic floor muscle retraining where the body is trained to use the pelvic floor muscles properly.

Treatment by laxatives : the treatment available for constipation are:

  1. Bulk forming laxatives: bran;
    psyllium/ispaghula, which can be taken as husks or powder supplements (e.g. Metamucil, Fybogel); and
    sterculia (e.g. Normafibe).
  2. Osmotic: lactulose (e.g. Actilax, Duphalac and Lac-Dol);
    sorbitol (e.g. Sorbilax);
    magnesium sulphate (e.g. Gold Cross Epsom Salts); and
    macrogol 3350 (e.g. OsmoLax).
  3. stimulant laxative :bisacodyl (e.g. Dulcolax, Bisalax);
    senna (e.g. Sennetabs);
    sodium picosulfate (e.g. Dulcolax SP Drops); and
    glycerol suppositories (which act as a stimulant in the rectum due to the irritant action of glycerol).

What are the lifestyle tips for constipation?

These are the lifestyle tips from people undergoing constipation.

  1. Increase your regular intake of fibre. Balance your diet and add some bulking  agents into it.
  2. Avoid getting dehydrated. Eat healthy food. Plenty of water should be drunk along with other Fluids which are essential for the body.
  3. Consider taking a laxative for a medication for the constipation. Exercise regularly and stay active. It is important for the bowel to facilitate its movements, so that it can return to its normal state again.

What are the required exercise?

There are no particular workouts recommended for a patient undergoing constipation. However, your doctor will advise you to go on a run or workout for at least 30 minutes. Exercising regularly will help in making the blood flow to your muscles better and stronger.

Interactions with diseases or pregnancy?

It is common for pregnant mothers to develop constipation. However, take caution and ask your doctor about what you should do.

Constipation can be a serious problem in a patient suffering from bleeding ulcerations in the rectal area. Some problems, like stroke, diabetes, or a blockage in the intestines, can cause constipation. These disorders may affect the muscles or nerves used for normal bowel movements. Constipation can often affect people with Parkinson’s disease.

Impaired expulsion of waste materials from the body can often result in Collateral Damage like abdominal cramping and the loss of appetite.

What are the common complications of constipation?

 These are the common complications of constipation.

  1. Swollen veins in your anus /hemorrhoids
  2. Torn skin in your anus /anal fissure
  3. Stool that can’t be expelled /fecal impaction
  4. Intestine that protrudes from the anus /rectal prolapse


Q. Can you still be constipated while defecating everyday?

It is normal for some people not to have a bowel movement everyday. This results in the release of stools at an interval of one or two days. If you are unable to pass stools for more than three days, then it is considered as constipation.

Q. What to do in case of impacted stools?

Treatment for the condition starts with the removal of the impacted stool. After that, steps are taken to prevent future fecal impactions. A warm mineral oil enema is often used to soften and lubricate the stool. However, enemas alone are not enough to remove a large, hardened impaction in most cases.

Q. What are some quick remedies of constipation?

Constipation can be treated easily with the help of these methods. Drink plenty of fluids and water. Consider taking senna/drink coffee. Get probiotic supplements. Exercise more.

Q. Why does constipation keep occurring frequently?

If your colon and large intestine absorb large amounts of water, you can suffer from frequent constipation. Consider changing your diet completely and induce fibre rich foods with nutrients and other probiotic supplements.

Q. What are the quick acting laxatives available for constipation?

Stimulant laxatives are the fastest-acting, such as include aloe, cascara (Nature’s Remedy), senna compounds (Ex-Lax, Senokot), bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Correctol), and castor oil. Saline laxatives or enemas such as Fleet Phospho-Soda, milk of magnesia, and magnesium citrate.


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