Constipation is a condition where bowel movements are more difficult to pass or occurs less than usual, such as only three (3) times a week. Most cases of constipation last for a short time only and do not call for any medical emergency.
What are the causes?
Constipation can be caused by numerous reasons and factors, these include a lack of fiber, dehydration, or various medications that cause constipation.
Other reasons include:
- Bowel obstruction
- Anal fissure
- Cancer in the rectum or colon
- Narrowing of the colon
- Pain medication such as codeine and hydromorphone
- Antidepressants such as amitriptyline
- Anticonvulsants such as phenytoin
- Iron supplements
- Calcium channel blocking drugs
- Aluminum-containing antacids
- Hormonal-related disorders, such as the lack of the thyroid hormone
Signs and symptoms of constipation
- Infrequent bowel movements or passage of stool
- Difficulty in passing stool, such as pain while passing stool
- Abdominal bloating
- Hard and/or small amounts of feces
- Occasional diarrhea
- Anal bleeding or fissures from trauma due to hard feces
Constipation can be prevented in many ways, these include:
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Drinking plenty of water and fluids
- Exercising regularly
- Taking the time when you need to do a bowel movement
- Using laxatives when only advised by your doctor
- Asking your doctor if any of the prescriptions you take cause constipation
To diagnose the cause of a severe case of constipation, multiple tests may be needed to be performed to pinpoint the cause.
Your doctor may ask you for your medical history to see any previous complications, illnesses that you’ve encountered in the past that may contribute to the reason for constipation or any prescriptions or medications that cause constipation.
Your doctor may also perform a physical examination to identify diseases that can cause constipation. A physical examination may also identify or uncover a tight anal sphincter as the cause of constipation which makes the passing of stool more difficult.
A blood test may also be performed to determine if there is a lack of the thyroid hormone and/or calcium to see if there’s an excess of parathyroid hormone.
An x-ray scan of the abdominal region can also be performed to see the amount of material in the colon. The more visualized it is on x-ray, the more severe the constipation is.