Abdomen | General Practice | Constipation (Disease)


Constipation is a condition in which a person has uncomfortable or infrequent bowel movements. Generally, a patient is considered to be constipated when bowel movements result in passage of small amounts of hard, dry stool, usually fewer than three times a week.

However, normal stool elimination may consist of having a bowel movement three times a day or three times a week; it depends on the person. Constipation is common; in the general population incidence of constipation varies from 2 to 30%.

The symptoms include:

(1) Hard, dry stools that may be painful to pass

(2) Bloated abdomen

(3) Straining to pass the motion

(4) Needing to open the bowels less often than usual

(5) Abdominal cramps

(6) Having to sit on the toilet for much longer than usual

(7) The sensation afterwards that the bowel hasn’t fully emptied .

Causes and Risk factors

Constipation is usually harmless, but it can indicate an underlying disorder. When severe constipation can lead to fecal impaction, and if not relieved can result in intestinal obstruction. The primary causes of constipation include dehydration, sedentary lifestyle, medications (especially narcotics), stress, pregnancy, laxative abuse, depression, poor diet low in fiber, large hemorrhoids, and low thyroid levels.

The causes of constipation can be divided into congenital, primary, and secondary. The most common cause is primary and not life threatening. In the elderly, causes include: insufficient dietary fiber intake, inadequate fluid intake, decreased physical activity, side effects of medications, hypothyroidism, and obstruction by colorectal cancer.

Constipation with no known organic cause, i. e. no medical explanation, exhibits gender differences in prevalence: females are more often affected than males. In some cases, constipation is caused by more serious illnesses and events, including tumours and systemic diseases.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment includes: laxatives, enemas, and/or digital disimpaction. Prevention of recurrence is important and involves diet, and staying hydrated. At times chronic use of stool softeners are needed. ...

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