Constipation Q & A

What is constipation?

Constipation refers to having extremely infrequent bowel movements or having difficulty in passing stools. Generally speaking, you’re constipated if you have three or fewer bowel movements within a week, although this can vary from person to person.
While occasional constipation may happen to anyone, chronic constipation can interfere with your daily life, and the excessive strain it causes can lead to multiple complications.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

If you’re wondering if you fit the description for constipation, consider the following:

  • Have you moved your bowels fewer than three times in the past week?
  • Are your stools hard and lumpy?
  • Do you have to strain to move your bowels?
  • Do you feel like there’s something blocking your rectum?
  • Do you feel as if you can’t fully empty your rectum of stool?
  • Do you need help to empty your rectum, such as by pressing on your abdomen?

If you’re experiencing two or more of these symptoms for a week, you have constipation. Once it’s lasted longer than three months, you’re experiencing chronic constipation.

What causes constipation?

Constipation can be a sign of a variety of problems in your digestive tract, but it can also be triggered by behavior or dietary changes. Common causes of constipation include:

  • Changes to your diet, like eating a lot of dairy or insufficient fiber
  • Stress
  • A side effect of medications like strong painkillers, antidepressants, and iron supplements
  • Eating disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Pregnancy
  • Problems with muscles in your digestive tract
  • Problems with nerves in the rectum or colon
  • Colon cancer
  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Constipation can also be caused by blockages in your rectum due to things like anal fissures, colon cancer, or bowel obstruction.

How is constipation treated?

Occasional and mild constipation can be treated effectively by eating more fiber and staying hydrated, but for chronic or severe constipation you should schedule an appointment with one of our physicians at LGS to make sure it’s not something more serious.
Depending on the cause, constipation is most often treated with a laxative medication. If your constipation is caused by a blockage in your rectum, a simple surgery may be necessary to remove it, but this is less common.