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Home :: Digestive Disorders



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Constipation is defined as undue delay in the evacuation of stools. It is a common complaint. It may be due to an abnormal retention of fecal matter or delay in discharge from the rectum. Stools may be described as infrequent, incomplete or unusually hard. Unusual straining may be required to achieve defecation. Acute constipation requires urgent assessment because a serious medical illness may be the underlying cause (e.g., tumors of the colon). Constipation also requires an immediate assessment if it is accompanied by worrisome symptoms such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and cramps, nausea and vomiting, and involuntary weight loss.

Constipation may be diagnosed if bowel movements occur fewer than three times weekly on an ongoing basis. Widespread beliefs, such as the assumption that everyone should have a movement at least once each day, have led to overuse and abuse of laxatives. A review of such habits often reveals correctable causes such as insufficient dietary roughage, lack of exercise, suppression of the defecation urge due to inconvenience, inadequate allotment of time for full defecation, prolonged travel and poor toilet training.

Constipation refers to infrequent or hard stools, or difficulty passing stools. With constipation stools are usually hard, dry, small in size, and difficult to eliminate. For most people, it is normal for bowel movements to occur from three times a day to three times a week; other people may go a week or more without experiencing discomfort or harmful effects The most common pattern is one bowel movement a day, but this pattern is seen in less than 50% of people. Moreover, most people are irregular and do not have bowel movements every day or the same number of bowel movements each day. In general, though, you're probably constipated if you pass hard and dry stools less than three times a week. In some cases you may also feel bloated or sluggish or experience discomfort or pain. Between the mouth and the anus, the food passes through about nine metres of gut, and by the time it leaves your body all the available nutrients should have been absorbed into the bodyOlder people are 5 times more likely than younger people to develop constipation. Going without a bowel movement for two or three days does not cause physical discomfort, only mental distress for some people. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that "toxins" accumulate when bowel movements are infrequent or that constipation leads to cancer . But experts believe that older people become too concerned with having a daily bowel movement and that constipation in this age group is overestimated.

Constipation is when you have trouble having bowel movements. Some people who are constipated find it painful to have a bowel movement and often experience straining, bloating, and the sensation of a full bowel. It depends on the food you eat, how much you exercise, and other things. Eating foods high in fiber, including bran, shredded wheat, whole grain breads and certain fruits and vegetables will help provide the 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day recommended for proper bowel function. Obstipation refers to severe constipation. Causes of constipation may be dietary , hormonal , a side effect of medications, and anatomical. Medically speaking, constipation usually is defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week .Fortunately, a few common-sense lifestyle changes, including getting more exercise, eating high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of water, can go a long way toward preventing or alleviating many cases of constipation. Some people have an underlying fear that they will be "poisoned" by their own intestinal wastes (feces) if they retain the waste in their bodies for more than a certain length of time. It is important to distinguish acute (recent onset) constipation from chronic (long duration) constipation.

Causes of Constipation

The common Causes of Constipation :

  • Eating foods rich in animal fats (dairy products, meats, and eggs) or refined sugar but low in fiber (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) may cause constipation.
  • After a period of time, you may stop feeling the desire for opening your bowel.
  • Changes in life or routine such as pregnancy, aging, and travel
  • Narcotic-containing drugs, for instance, may interfere with bowel functions
  • Stroke, Hirschsprung disease, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord lesion, Chagas disease, and familial dysautonomia
  • Specific diseases or conditions, such as stroke (most common)
  • Poor bowel habits: Ignoring the desire to have bowel movements may initiate a cycle of constipation.
  • Hypercalcemia, hypokalemia, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and pregnancy
  • Other times, diseases of the bowel (such as irritable bowel syndrome ), pregnancy, certain medical conditions (like an underactive thyroid or cystic fibrosis ), mental health problems, neurological diseases, or medications may be the reason for your constipation.
  • More serious causes, like colon cancer , are much less common.

Symptoms of Constipation

Some are common Symptoms of Constipation :

  • Pass a hard stool fewer than three times a week
  • Coated (furred) tongue, offensive breath, and bad taste in your mouth
  • Have abdominal bloating or discomfort
  • Distended abdomen, headaches, and loss of appetite
  • Having to strain to pass a motion
  • Strain frequently during bowel movements
  • Pain when passing a motion
  • Passing a motion less often than usual
  • If you have intestinal obstruction, nausea, vomiting, no defecation, and inability to pass gas

Treatment of Constipation

Here is the list of the methods for treating Constipation :

  • The main thing in treating constipation is to be sure you're eating enough fiber and drinking enough fluids.
  • In elderly bedridden patients, it is important to exclude severe dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities.
  • Lifestyle changes consist of exercising, reserving enough time to have a bowel movement and having a bowel movement when needed.
  • Exclude any life-threatening complication of constipation (eg, volvulus) and remember that the patient might present with intestinal perforation after tap water enemas performed at home.
  • If you are confined to a wheelchair or bed, change position frequently and perform abdominal contraction exercises and leg raises.
  • Talk to your family doctor if you notice any blood in your stools, if constipation is new and unusual for you, if you're constipated for 3 weeks or more, or if you're in pain.
  • Surgical care is generally restricted to the evaluation of underlying causes such as large bowel obstruction, volvulus, or intra-abdominal infection or ischemia.
  • Seek medical advice if these measures don't help or if constipation is associated with severe abdominal pain, vomiting or passing blood or mucus in the motions.