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Constipation: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About constipation

Constipation is a self-limiting condition which may have affected almost everyone at some point of time in life. It is a digestive problem characterised by infrequent bowel movements which may range from three or less than three bowel movements in a week.

Constipation: Incidence, age and sex

Constipation is a frequent condition which may be seen in any age group. However, it is more frequent in young children, older adults and pregnant women.

Signs and symptoms of constipation: Diagnosis

Constipation is not a disease but a symptom. It is defined as infrequent bowel movements which may be associated with hard, small and dry stool in majority of individuals. It may be self limiting or a long standing condition and may be accompanied with mild abdominal discomfort in some individuals. Sometimes alternate episodes of constipation and diarrhoea may be seen which is characteristic of bowel cancer. Constipation may also occur as a symptom of irritable bowel disease which is fairly common in women.

Furthermore any recent change in bowel movements should be ideally consulted with a gastroenterologist for further evaluation. The gastroenterologist may conduct a rectal examination and advice for some tests like colonoscopy and barium enema to rule out any pathological causes of constipation.

Causes and prevention of constipation

Constipation is seen when normal mechanism of stool formation is disrupted. In normal cases, the food products move gradually along intestines where water and nutrients gets absorbed from food and the remaining waste products get excreted as stool.

Several factors may result in constipation, of which the common ones are misuse of laxatives, ignoring the urge and dehydration. Certain medications like anti-depressants, cough suppressants, iron preparations or antihypertensives have constipation as one of their adverse affect. Moreover it is may be seen commonly in post operative patients and pregnant women. Some disease in which muscle movements are diminished like stroke, Parkinson’s, or hypothyroidism may also lead to constipation.

Constipation: Complications

Since constipation is a symptom in itself, it may not lead to any long lasting or serious health concern. However it is essential to evaluate the underlying cause of constipation which may result in complications if not treated timely.

Constipation: Treatment

Constipation can be treated successfully in most of the individuals. Some dietary modifications along with lifestyle changes may effectively cure this condition. It is recommended to take fibre rich diet which constitutes a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole wheat. Moreover take plenty of water and fluids throughout the day to avoid recurrences of constipation. Regular physical activity is also needed to prevent further constipation. If constipation is not being managed with dietary and lifestyle changes, some medications may be prescribed. These medications include laxatives, stool softeners, lubricants or stimulants.