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What Is The Definition Of Constipation

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What Is Constipation?

There are a few complications that could happen if you dont have soft, regular bowel movements. Some complications include:

  • Swollen, inflamed veins in your rectum .
  • An infection in pouches that sometimes form off the colon wall from stool that has become trapped and infected
  • Damage to your pelvic floor muscles from straining to move your bowels. These muscles help control your bladder. Too much straining for too long a period of time may cause urine to leak from the bladder .

How Long Will I Need To Take Laxatives For

If you’ve had constipation for a short time, your pharmacist will usually advise you to stop taking the laxative once your stools are soft and easily passed.

However, if your constipation is caused by an underlying medical condition or a medicine you’re taking, your GP may advise you to take laxatives for much longer, possibly many months or even years.

If you’ve been taking laxatives for some time, you may have to gradually reduce your dose, rather than coming off them straight away. If you have been prescribed a combination of laxatives, you’ll normally have to reduce the dosage of each laxative, one at a time, before you can stop taking them. This can take several months.

Your GP will advise you about when it’s best to stop taking long-term laxatives.

Pharmacy First Scotland: Constipation Treatment From Your Pharmacy

If you have constipation you can get advice and treatment directly from a pharmacy. Find your local pharmacy on Scotland’s Service Directory.

Constipation isn’t usually serious and can be treated by a pharmacist. Your pharmacist may recommend that you contact your GP practice if required.

Also speak to your pharmacist if you think your child might be constipated. Laxatives are often recommended for children alongside diet and lifestyle changes.

You may be able to treat constipation yourself by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle . If these changes don’t help and the problem continues, you should see your pharmacist.

However, you should see your GP for advice if:

  • you notice any rectal bleeding
  • you notice any unexplained weight loss
  • you have persistent tiredness
  • your constipation lasts longer than 14 days without improvement

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What Should I Expect When I Talk To My Doctor About My Constipation

Talking to your doctor or anyone about your bowel movements is not the most pleasant of topics. Know that your doctor is there for you. Doctors are trained health professionals who have discussed just about every health topic you can think of with their patients.

Your doctor will first ask you questions about your medical history, bowel movements, and your lifestyle and routines.

Medical history

  • What are your current and past diseases/health conditions?
  • Have you lost or gained any weight recently?
  • Have you had any previous digestive tract surgeries?
  • What medications and supplements do you take for other disorders and for the relief of constipation?
  • Does anyone in your family have constipation or diseases of the digestive tract or a history of colon cancer?
  • Have you had a colonoscopy?

Bowel movement history

  • How often do you have a bowel movement?
  • What do your stools look like?
  • Have you noticed any blood or red streaks in your stool?
  • Have you ever seen blood in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper after you wipe?

Lifestyle habits and routines

  • What food and beverages do you eat and drink?
  • What is your exercise routine?

Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, which includes a check of your vital signs . He or she will use a stethoscope to listen to the sounds in your abdomen. Your abdomen will also be touched to check for pain, tenderness, swelling, and lumps.

Medical Causes Of Constipation

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Constipation and Tips to Ease Them

Constipation is sometimes symptomatic of underlying medical problems, such as:

  • Slow transit some people naturally pass motions less often than most people. It seems their bowel pacemaker may be less active. These individuals are more likely to become constipated with minor changes in their routine.
  • Hernia an abdominal hernia can reduce intra-abdominal pressure, which makes it more difficult to pass a motion.
  • Abdominal or gynaecological surgery a combination of change in routine, strange surroundings, post-operative pain and codeine-containing analgesics is a potent cause of constipation and often needs preventive care.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and either constipation or diarrhoea or alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
  • Problems of the endocrine system such as hypothyroidism, diabetes or hypopituitarism.
  • Tumour pain while trying to pass a stool could be a symptom of rectal cancer.
  • Diseases of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons disease or stroke are associated with an increased susceptibility to constipation.

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Lack Of Fiber In The Diet

People with a high intake of dietary fiber are less likely to experience constipation.

This is because regular bowel movements, especially when a person combines it with proper hydration.

High fiber foods include:

  • lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes

Low fiber foods include:

  • high fat foods, such as cheese, meat, and eggs
  • highly processed foods, such as white bread
  • fast foods, chips, and other premade foods

Learn more about foods that can prevent and treat constipation here.

What Should I Do If I Am Constipated

Take these steps:

  • Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day, unless your doctor told you to limit fluids for another reason.
  • Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
  • Eat prunes and bran cereal.
  • Exercise most days of the week. When you move your body, the muscles in your intestines are more active, too.
  • Donât ignore the urge to poop.

You can try taking a laxative, too. There are several types of laxatives, and you can buy many of them over the counter. Each of them works in a different way to ease constipation. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which kind might work for you and how long you should take it.

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Medical Definition Of Constipation

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Constipation: Infrequent and frequently incomplete bowel movements. Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea and is commonly caused by irritable bowel syndrome , diverticulosis, and medications. Paradoxically, constipation can also be caused by overuse of laxatives. Colon cancer can also narrow the colon and thereby cause constipation. A high-fiberdiet can frequently relieve constipation. If the diet is not helpful, medical evaluation is warranted.

How Can I Prevent Constipation

What is Constipation? Causes, signs and symptoms, Diagnosis and treatment

Use the same home-based methods you used to treat constipation to prevent it from becoming a chronic problem:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Fiber and water help the colon pass stool. Most of the fiber in fruits is found in the skins, such as in apples. Fruits with seeds you can eat, like strawberries, have the most fiber. Bran is a great source of fiber. Eat bran cereal or add bran cereal to other foods, like soup and yogurt. People with constipation should eat between 18 and 30 grams of fiber every day.
  • Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Liquids that contain caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks, can dehydrate you. You may need to stop drinking these products until your bowel habits return to normal.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Treat mild constipation with a dietary supplement like magnesium.
  • Move your bowels when you feel the urge. Do not wait.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Constipation

The following are the most common symptoms of constipation. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficult and painful bowel movements

  • Bowel movements fewer than three times a week

  • Feeling bloated or uncomfortable

  • Feeling sluggish

The symptoms of constipation may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

When Should I Call My Doctor

  • Constipation is a new problem for you.
  • You see blood in your stool.
  • You are losing weight unintentionally.
  • You have severe pain with bowel movements.
  • Your constipation has lasted more than three weeks.
  • You have symptoms of outlet dysfunction constipation.

Remember, talk openly and honestly with your doctor about your bowel movements and any questions or concerns you may have. Pooping is something we all should be doing. Constipation may be a temporary situation, a long-term problem or a sign of a more serious condition. Be safe. See your doctor, especially if youve noticed a change in your bowel pattern or if your life is being ruled by your bowels.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/07/2019.


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Does Not Having Regular Bowel Movements Cause Toxins To Build Up In My Body And Make Me Sick

Dont worry, this usually isnt the case. Although your colon holds on to stool longer when you are constipated and you may feel uncomfortable, the colon is an expandable container for your waste. There is possibly a slight risk of a bacterial infection if waste gets into an existing wound in the colon or rectum.

Does It Indicate Another Medical Condition

Definition Of Constipation

Chronic constipation is rarely the result of a serious underlying condition. It usually improves with lifestyle changes and OTC treatments.

A person should speak with their doctor if the above treatments do not ease their constipation. A doctor may recommend tests to check for underlying health issues.

In very rare cases, chronic constipation may be a sign of colorectal cancer.

A person should talk with their doctor if they experience chronic constipation that affects their physical or mental health or their day-to-day life.

People should also speak with a doctor if their constipation accompanies any of the following symptoms:

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Can I Prevent Constipation

In many cases, you can. These things can help:

Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Good sources are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain bread and cereal . See how prebiotic supplements can help ease digestion.

Drink 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water and other fluids a day . Fiber and water work together to keep you regular.

Cut back on milk. Dairy products can constipate some people.

Exercise regularly. Do something active for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.

Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge.

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Diagnostic Criteria For Chronic Constipation

What is considered a normal bowel movement can change depending on the person. For some, it may mean going three times a week or twice a day. For others, it may mean going every day. There really isnt a standard or perfect number for bowel movements.

Because of this, doctors have tried to put together a list of criteria to help them diagnose chronic constipation. The require that symptoms must include two or more of the following:

  • fewer than three spontaneous bowel movements per week
  • lumpy or hard stools at least 25 percent of the time
  • a sensation of incomplete evacuation for at least 25 percent of bowel movements
  • a sensation of obstruction or blockage for at least 25 percent of bowel movements
  • manual maneuvers to help at least 25 percent of bowel movements

The main criterion for chronic constipation, however, is that the symptoms have persisted for more than three months.

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Examples Of Constipation In A Sentence

constipationconstipationclevelandconstipation EW.comconstipationGlamourconstipation San Diego Union-TribuneconstipationSELFconstipationajcconstipationLos Angeles TimesconstipationThe Salt Lake Tribune

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word ‘constipation.’ Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

What Does It Mean To Have Chronic Constipation

What is Constipation

Constipation means something slightly different to each person. To some, constipation means having infrequent bowel movements. To others, it means having difficult-to-pass or hard stools that cause straining. Still, others might define constipation as having a feeling of incomplete emptying of their bowel after a bowel movement.

The main difference between chronic and acute constipation is how long the constipation lasts.

In general, acute or short-term constipation is:

  • infrequent, lasting only a few days
  • brought on by a change in diet or routine, travel, lack of exercise, illness, or a medication
  • relieved by over-the-counter laxatives, exercise, or a high-fiber diet

On the other hand, chronic constipation is:

  • long-term, lasting for more than three months and sometimes even continuing for years
  • disruptive to a persons personal or work life
  • not relieved by a change in diet or exercise, so requires medical attention or prescription medications

Constipation is one of the most common chronic gastrointestinal disorders in adults. In the United States, more than 2.5 million people visit their doctor each year for constipation. Annually, Americans spend nearly $800 million on laxatives to treat constipation.

The following people are at a higher risk of experiencing chronic constipation:

  • anti-diarrheal agents

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Patient Discussion About Constipation

Q. treatment for constipation


Q. How Do You Treat Constipation? I have been suffering from constipation in the last week and it is very disturbing. Are there any ways to treat it?


Q. How to help with constipation? I am 15 weeks pregnant and am suffering from constipation. How can I get rid of it?


Neurological Disorders And Constipation

Diseases that involve the nervous system may cause chronic constipation. These diseases include autonomic neuropathy, diabetes mellitus, and other endocrine diseases as well as rare causes such as Chagas disease and Hirschsprungs disease.

Among these conditions, diabetes can cause multiple gastrointestinal symptoms, especially gastroparesis and intestinal enteropathy. Intestinal enteropathy can cause diarrhea, constipation and fecal incontinence, alternation of symptoms or a combination of these. Although some studies have indicated that diabetic autonomic neuropathy that causes intestinal enteropathy may be the principal underlying mechanism, the exact causes of constipation in patients with diabetes are poorly defined. Constipation can be found in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is clearly more frequent compared with healthy individuals, although definite statistics regarding frequency are not available . Presently, it remains unclear why constipation is more frequent in female patients with diabetes than in males.

Both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia were shown in acute and chronic studies to impair functioning of enteric neuronal regulation and to cause constipation . This suggests that in patients with diabetes and constipation, optimizing glycemic control should be the first priority.

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Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction In Patients With Spinal Cord Injury Multiple Sclerosis And Parkinsons Disease

Spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons disease are frequently associated with constipation. The origin of constipation in patients with these conditions is complex and include disease-related autonomic and pelvic nerve dysfunction as well as generalized systemic factors. The systemic factors include a broad variety ranging from altered solid and liquid diet and behaviour, impaired mobility and psychological disturbances. Furthermore, drugs used in the treatment of these conditions may also cause constipation regular use of laxatives in these patients is advisable.

In patients with multiple sclerosis, bowel dysfunction including fecal incontinence and constipation is common. These symptoms frequently coexist, with bowel dysfunction occurring in up to 70% of patients with the disease .

Little is known about the pathophysiology of bowel dysfunction in patients with multiple sclerosis. Small studies identified that colonic activity is reduced and transit time may be delayed, indicating that it is largely impaired colonic motility that causes the constipation . Treatment of constipation in these patients follows a purely symptomatic approach. When treating constipation in patients with multiple sclerosis, spastic disorders of the pelvic floor should be ruled out because these patients will probably not respond to treatment with laxatives.

Diagnosis Of Functional Constipation

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Since there are no specific tests to identify functional constipation, this diagnosis is based on criteria established by expert consensus called the Rome criteria.8 These have been sequentially refined over time and the Rome IV criteria define functional constipation as fulfilling at least 2 of the 6 criteria listed in Table 2. Functional constipation can be divided into 2 groups, slow transit constipation and outlet dysfunction.8 Slow transit constipation refers to delayed passage of fecal contents through the colon and is more common in women. The exact pathophysiology of slow transit constipation is unknown, however, it appears to involve a number of underlying causes including alterations in colonic muscle or nerve activity, enteric neurotransmitters and loss of interstitial cells of Cajal. The interstitial cells of Cajal are electrically active cells believed to act as the pacemakers for the intestines.7, 9. Studies have also found that excess methane production by colonic bacteria may be responsible for slow transit in some patients.10

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Complementary And Alternative Remedies

Other possible therapies include acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies, and moxibustion, which involves stimulating acupuncture points with the herb mugwort.

One 2015 study concluded that acupuncture and herbal remedies may help, but that more evidence is needed to confirm the usefulness of these methods.

That being said, the use of herbal remedies is complex, and people should always speak to a doctor before trying anything new, as they can have adverse effects.

Anyone who has concerns about constipation should speak to their doctor.

How Common Is Constipation

You are not alone if you have constipation. Constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the United States. At least 2.5 million people see their doctor each year due to constipation.

People of all ages can have an occasional bout of constipation. There are also certain people and situations that are more likely to lead to becoming more consistently constipated . These include:

  • Older age. Older people tend to be less active, have a slower metabolism and less muscle contraction strength along their digestive tract than when they were younger.
  • Being a woman, especially while you are pregnant and after childbirth. Changes in a womans hormones make them more prone to constipation. The baby inside the womb squishes the intestines, slowing down the passage of stool.
  • Not eating enough high-fiber foods. High-fiber foods keep food moving through the digestive system.
  • Taking certain medications .
  • Having certain neurological and digestive disorders .

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