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Constipation

Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent and stools become difficult to pass.  It happens because your colon absorbs too much water from waste (stool), which dries out the stool making it hard in consistency and difficult to push out of the body.  Constipation can occur when a person changes their diet or routine, or has inadequate intake of fiber.  You should call your doctor if you have severe pain, blood in your stools, or constipation that lasts longer than three weeks.

 

 

Having fewer than three bowel movements a week is, technically, the definition of constipation. However, how often you “go” varies widely from person to person. Some people have bowel movements several times a day while others have them only one to two times a week. Whatever your bowel movement pattern is, it is unique and normal for you – as long as you don’t stray too far from your pattern.

 

Regardless of your bowel pattern, one fact is certain: the longer you go before you “go,” the more difficult it becomes for stool/poop to pass. Other key features that usually define constipation include:

 

  • Your stools are dry and hard.

  • Your bowel movement is painful and stools are difficult to pass.

  • You have a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels.

 

 

You are not alone if you have constipation. Constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the United States. At least 2.5 million people see their doctor each year due to constipation.

 

People of all ages can have an occasional bout of constipation. There are also certain people and situations that are more likely to lead to becoming more consistently constipated (“chronic constipation”). These include:

 

  • Older age. Older people tend to be less active, have a slower metabolism and less muscle contraction strength along their digestive tract than when they were younger.

  • Being a woman, especially while you are pregnant and after childbirth. Changes in a woman’s hormones make them more prone to constipation. The baby inside the uterus squishes the intestines, slowing down the passage of stool.

  • Not eating enough high-fiber foods. High-fiber foods keep food moving through the digestive system.

  • Taking certain medications.

  • Having certain neurological (diseases of the brain and spinal cord) and digestive disorders.

 

 

There are many causes of constipation such as lifestyle choices, medications, medical conditions, and pregnancy.

 

Common lifestyle causes of constipation include:

  • Eating foods low in fiber

  • Not drinking enough water

  • Not getting enough exercise

  • Changes in your regular routine

  • Stress

  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement

 

Medications that can cause constipation include:

  • Strong pain medications, such as narcotics (i.e., oxycodone and hydrocodone)

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e., Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Aleve

  • Antidepressants (i.e., Fluoxetine)

  • Antacids that contain calcium or aluminum (i.e., Tums)

  • Iron pills

  • Allergy medications (i.e., Benadryl)

  • Certain blood pressure medications

  • Psychiatric medications (i.e., Clozapine)

  • Anticonvulsant / Seizure medications

  • Antinausea medications (i.e., Zofran)

 

Medical and health conditions that can cause constipation include:

  • Endocrine conditions (i.e., hypothyroidism and diabetes)

  • Colorectal cancer

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • Diverticular disease

  • Outlet dysfunction constipation

  • Intestinal obstruction

  • Neurologic disorders (i.e., spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease)

  • Structural defects of the digestive system (i.e., fistula)

  • Multiple organ disease (i.e., lupus)

  • Pregnancy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • Having fewer than three bowel movements a week

  • Having dry, hard and/or lumpy stools

  • Straining to have a bowel movement

  • You have difficulty or pain passing your stools

  • You have a stomach ache or cramps

  • You feel bloated and nauseous

  • You feel that you haven’t completely emptied your bowels after a movement.

  • Feeling as though there’s a blockage in your rectum or need help emptying your rectum (i.e., using your fingers to manually remove stool from the rectum or pressing down on your abdomen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The physicians at Connecticut Colon & Rectal Surgery, LLC have a goal to effectively treat constipation by developing an individualized treatment plan based on the symptoms and the cause of your constipation.  In some cases, it may be necessary to undergo some testing to diagnose the cause of your constipation.  Some testing may include but is not limited to:

 

  • Colonoscopy

  • CT Scans (Computed Tomography)

  • MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)

  • Colorectal transit studies

  • Defecography

 

 

 

Most cases of mild or moderate constipation can be managed by you at home.  Self-care starts by taking an inventory of what you eat and drink then making changes.  Some recommendations to help relieve your constipation include:

 

  • Avoid dehydration by drinking water.

  • Avoid caffeine-containing drinks and alcohol.

  • Add high-fiber foods to your diet and eat less high-fat foods.

  • Exercise

  • Add an over-the-counter fiber supplement to your diet.

  • If needed, take a very mild over-the-counter stool softener or laxative.

  • Do not read or use your phone or other devices while trying to move your bowels.

 

In addition to self-care methods, your doctor will review your medical history and current medications, vitamins, and supplements.  Some of these products may cause constipation.  In some cases, your physician may prescribe a prescription medication such as Amitiza, Linzess, or Trulance to treat your constipation.  Your doctor will pick the medication that might work for you the best based on your medical history, current medications, and the results of any testing.

 

Surgery is rarely needed to treat constipation.  However, your doctor may recommend surgery if your constipation is caused by a structural problem in the colon.  For example, a blockage in the colon, a narrowing in a portion of the intestine, a tear in the anus (anal fissure), or the collapse of part of the rectum into the vagina (rectal prolapse).  This is best discussed after testing.

 

 

Call your colorectal surgeon if:

 

  • Constipation is a new problem for you.

  • You see blood in your stool.

  • You are unintentionally losing weight.

  • You have severe pain with bowel movements.

  • Your constipation has lasted more than three weeks.

 

Remember, talk openly and honestly with your doctor about your bowel movements and any questions or concerns you may have.  Bowel movements is something we all should have.  Constipation may be a temporary situation, a long-term problem or a sign of a more serious condition.  Be safe.  See your doctor, especially if you’ve noticed a change in your bowel pattern or if your life is being ruled by your bowels.

 

 

If you believe you are suffering from constipation and want to relieve your discomfort, give our office a call at (860) 826-3880 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment online.  If appropriate and availability allows, a consultation appointment will be scheduled for you to be seen by one of our experienced physicians, generally, within a two-week timeframe of contacting the office.  Procedures are generally scheduled shortly thereafter.

What is Constipation?

How Common is Constipation?

What Causes Constipation?

What are the Symptoms of Constipation?

What Tests May Be Done to Find the Cause of My Constipation?

How is Constipation Treated?

When Should I Call My Doctor?

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