Indy Gastro | Colonoscopy, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, constipation, endoscopy

Constipation

Definition

Constipation means different things to different people. Constipation is condition that is characterized by infrequent bowel movements that are painful or difficult, or stools that are hard in consistency. Bowel habits are different for everyone. The foods you eat, how much you exercise, and other factors can affect your bowel habits. At one time or another, almost everyone gets constipated. In most cases, it lasts for only a short time and is not serious. When constipation does not go away or returns regularly you should see your doctor.

Causes

When you understand what causes constipation, you may be able to take steps to prevent it. Constipation occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly. When stool stays in the large intestine too long, the intestine removes too much water, and the stool becomes hard and dry.

Diagnosis

To find out why you have constipation, your doctor will perform a complete physical examination. The doctor may also order one or more tests if a serious problem is suspected as the cause of constipation.

Treatment

  1. Bulking Agents
    Bulk-producing laxatives help restore normal moisture levels in the intestine. Bulk-forming laxatives may work as quickly as 12 hours or take as long as three days to be effective. They can decrease the absorption of certain medications however.
  2. Laxatives and other medications
    There are many medications that can cause or increase chances of having constipation. These include pain killers, antidepressants and iron supplements. The doctor may recommend laxatives to relieve constipation. Laxatives can be lubricating and stimulating in nature. Lubricating laxatives coat and softens stool. Stimulant laxatives promote bowel movements by increasing the contraction of muscles in the intestines, and are effective when used on a short term basis
  3. Surgery
    In some rare cases surgery is needed to fix cause of constipation or the lasting effects caused by constipation. A colorectal surgeon would be consulted and options discussed.  
  4. Bowel Retraining Program
    People who ignore the urge to have a bowel movement may eventually stop feeling the need to have one, which can lead to constipation. Some people delay having a bowel movement because they do not want to use toilets outside the home. Others ignore the urge because of emotional stress or because they are too busy. Children may postpone having a bowel movement because of stressful toilet training or because they do not want to interrupt their play. People with chronic constipation caused by anorectal abnormal functioning can use biofeedback to retrain the muscles that control bowel movements. Biofeedback involves using a sensor to monitor muscle activity, which is displayed on a computer screen, allowing for an accurate assessment of body functions. A health care professional uses this information to help the patient learn how to retrain these muscles.

Diet

Fiber helps form soft, bulky stools and is found in many vegetables, fruits, and grains. Be sure to add fiber to your diet a little at a time so your body gets used to it. Limit foods that have little or no fiber such as pizza, ice cream, cheese, meat, snacks like chips, and processed foods such as instant mashed potatoes or frozen dinners. Liquids have little effect on stool form; however, drinking enough fluids is important because dehydration can cause constipation. Try not to drink liquids that contain caffeine or alcohol if you feel thirsty or dehydrated.

Summary

Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. With constipation stools are usually hard, dry, small in size, and difficult to eliminate. 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. Constipation can be caused for different reasons.

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