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Constipation Symptoms, Causes, Complications, and Management

Constipation is a very common bowel movement problem. It is not a disease but a symptom in which a person experiences infrequent stools or faces and difficulty in passing them. In general, a person is called constipated if he/she does not have spontaneous (by itself, without medicines) defecation (discharge of feces from the body) i.e less than 3 times a week. Constipation may occur very commonly, but if the problem persists very frequently for several weeks or more it is considered to be chronic.

You can get fast relief from constipation with your lifestyle and diet changes that you will learn in this article.




Symptoms

Below are the signs and symptoms of constipation:
  • Less frequent bowel movements i.e. less than three bowel movements in one week
  • Difficulty in passing stools
  • Hard stools
  • Abdominal discomfort/ pain
  • Bloating (with flatulence, gas or wind)
  • Bleeding anus due to passing hard stools
  • Sense of incomplete removal after bowel movement


Causes

The following are the reasons for the dull movement of the fecal matter though the digestive tract:
  • Poor diet with a low fiber content
  • Insufficient intake of liquids like water and juices
  • Use of analgesics, anti-spasmodic, antidepressants, iron containing tablets, diuretics and antacids containing aluminum
  • Change in routine or lifestyle, such as a change in eating habits
  • No or less physical activity
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome may result in spasm in colon, slowing down the movement of food through digestive tract
  • Overuse of laxatives eventually results in improper functioning of intestine
  • Long traveling hours disturbs digestive system
  • Disturbed hormones such as a less active thyroid gland
  • Rarely, anatomical problems(body structural defects) like muscle weakness also leads to constipation



Risk Factors

Following factors may increase the risk of constipation:

  • Gender: Women are more prone to constipation as compared to men
  • Avoiding passing stools may eventually result in not feeling to pass stools, leading to many complications
  • Long traveling hours disturbs digestive system
  • Eating excess of dairy products
  • Stress


Complications

It is associated with many complications such as:
  • Hemorrhoids, a condition in which the blood vessels of the anus gets swollen
  • Bowel incontinence (the leakage of liquid stools)
  • Anal bleeding resulted from tearing of the soft tissues around the anus (fissure)
  • Inconsistent stool i.e. hard stool or immediately getting uncontrollable loose stool
  • Rectal prolapsed, a condition in which the lower part of the intestine projects out from the anus



Prevention

Constipation can be avoided in several ways. These include:
  • Eating a fibre-rich diet (at least 15 gms / day)
  • Avoiding dehydration by drinking water or fluids at regular intervals
  • Exercising regularly
  • Not ignoring the urge to pass stools


Management

Generally there is no need of any tests to diagnose constipation. Patients himself/herself identify the problem and come to the physician. However, in case of chronic constipation, it can be detected by examining the rectum and colon by sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. These are the techniques in which a scope is inserted through the anus and doctor examines if there is any structural defect.

To relieve patient from constipation, physician prescribe medicines and general measures as follows:
  • A fibre supplement containing ethyl cellulose, psyllium, calcium polycarbophil and guar gum helps adding bulk to the stool
  • Laxatives, lubricants and stool softeners containing mineral oil, sennosides, magnesium citrate and lactulose helps to ease bowel movement
  • Use of medicines like lubiprostone and linaclotide may help in chronic constipation

Non pharmacological (drugs) measures used to manage constipation are:
  • Eat a healthy diet by adding fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Include beans, dried fruits, bran and whole grains in diet
  • A good physical activity and mobility helps in a better muscle functioning of intestines
  • Sufficient quantity of water intake (at least 6-8 glasses / day)
  • Pass stools as soon as you feel the urge for it


Points to Remember
  • Three times a day to three times a week is considered normal frequency. Less than that is constipation and more than that, diarrhea
  • Constipation is a common problem which everybody experiences at a certain time
  • Set a proper time for meals
  • Work outs and yoga may help preventing constipation
  • If constipated, don’t start having a sudden high-fiber diet as it may cause gas and bloating, so start slowly
  • A regular bowel habit should be practiced
  • See a doctor on noticing an unusual and prolonged change in the bowel movement

I am sure that this article will give me complete insight about constipation causes and complication. For more visit Dixit Health Learning.




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