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Constipation is a common problem worldwide. Since only a few patients seek care for constipation, it is difficult to know accurately how many people suffer with this problem. Roughly it is believed that anywhere between 2-35% of adults have constipation.
Constipation refers to any difficulty in passing stools. There are many different descriptions and can include a change in toilet (bowel) habits, hard or too small stools, difficult-to-pass, or infrequent stools (usually less than three times per week). There may be a need to strain or use a lot of pressure while passing stools; many times, patients may sense that the bowels are not empty even after passing stools.
- Constipation has numerous causes, a few of which are listed below:
- Low fiber intake (eating less vegetables or fruits)
- Ignoring the urge to pass tools
- Insufficient fluid intake
- Insufficient movement or exercise
- Diseases primarily of other parts of the body that also affect the colon, e.g. diabetes, thyroid problems
- Constipation is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms and a physical examination.
- Common symptoms of constipation:
- The need to pass stools has reduced from your normal frequency
- Lumpy or hard stools, difficult-to-pass stools
- Straining during defecations
- Sensation of incomplete evacuation
- Sensation of blockage
- Manually stimulating defecation
- It is important to mention any medication you are receiving to the doctor, since many medicines can cause constipation.
- Your doctor may need to perform a rectal exam to check for abnormalities. This involves inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to check for lumps, abnormalities or blood in the stool.
- Colonoscopy may be recommended to detect the presence of abnormalities such as rectal ulcers, inflammation or cancer.
- Many patients treat constipation at home before going to consult a doctor; however, sometimes, it is important to talk to a doctor instead of attempting to treat it by oneself.
- Constipation along with the following symptoms should prompt a visit to the doctor:
- Weight loss
- Blood in the stool
- Sudden change in bowel habits after the age of 50 years
- Significant abdominal pain
- Family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease
- Constipation not responsive to simple treatment
- Many patients suffer in silence and try to self-medicate while, for those who do seek medical help, treatments can be unsatisfactory.
- Constipation can be prevented by following a few simple rules every day:
- Eat healthy foods that have a lot of fiber. Good choices are fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
- When you feel the urge to pass stools, do so. Don't hold it in.
- Indigestible fiber supplements
- Laxatives that work by softening the stool or help the intestine push the stool out.
- http://www.uptodate.com/contents/patient-information constipation-in-adults-beyond-the basics?source=search_result&search=constipation&selectedTitle = 1 ∼55#H4 accessed on March 2012
- Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology 2011; 25:3-18
- Neurogastroenterol Motil (2011) 23, 697-710