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Constipation

Posted Jun 02 2009 4:38pm

What is constipation?
Constipation is the infrequent and difficult passage of stool. It ranges from three movements a day to three a week. If more than three days pass without a bowel movement, the intestinal contents may harden. A person may have difficulty or even pain during stool elimination. Straining during bowel movements or the feeling of incomplete evacuation may also be reported as constipation.

What are some of the causes of constipation?
Constipation is a symptom, not a disease. Most people have experienced an occasional brief bout of constipation that has corrected itself with diet and time. The following is a list of some of the most common causes of constipation:
  • Poor Diet
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Irregular Bowel Habits
  • Laxative Abuse.
  • Other causes are:
  • Hormonal Disturbances, Pregnancy, Fissures and Hemorrhoids, Specific Diseases (multiple sclerosis, tumor, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, stroke), Loss of Body Salts, Nerve Damage, certain medications, and altered bowel habits
What causes constipation in older adults?
Older adults are five times more likely than younger adults to report problems with constipation. Poor diet, insufficient intake of fluids, lack of exercise, the use of certain drugs to treat other conditions and poor bowel habits can result in constipation. Other causes of constipation are: prolonged bed rest after an illness and dependence heavily on laxatives, which can be habit-forming.

What diagnostic tests can help determine the causes of constipation?
In addition to routine blood, urine, and stool tests, a proctoscopy may help detect problems in the rectum. This procedure can be done in the doctor’s office. The doctor inserts a lighted instrument through the anus to examine the rectum. The doctor may perform a colonoscopy to inspect the entire colon. A barium enema X-ray can provide similar information. If required certain highly specialized techniques are also available.

When is medical attention needed?
The doctor should be notified when symptoms are severe, last longer than three weeks, are disabling, or when any of the complications listed above occur.
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