Constipation is a common condition that is characterized by having extremely infrequent bowel movements or having great difficulty passing stools. Patients who have three or fewer bowel movements in a week are considered constipated, but this can vary from person to person. While constipation happens to most people from time to time, chronic constipation can cause a great deal of discomfort, and even interfere with daily life, due to the strain it can cause and multiple complications that it can lead to.
Symptoms of constipation vary, but if patients experience two or more of the following for a week, they have constipation. If any of these symptoms persist for three months or longer, they are experiencing chronic constipation:
There are a variety of factors that can cause constipation, many of which are related to problems in the digestive tract; however, it can also be triggered by lifestyle or dietary changes:
Treatment for mild constipation is mostly dietary; keeping hydrated and making a conscious effort to eat more fiber can treat occasional constipation. If symptoms last for three or more months, it is likely severe or chronic constipation and warrants an appointment with a physician.
Depending on severity and cause, a doctor will most likely treat constipation with a simple laxative medication. If the constipation is caused by a blockage in the rectum, treatment may be more complicated, and can even require surgery to correct the issue. However, this is far less common than other treatment options.
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