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Constipation is an abnormal condition in which there is an infrequent and difficult passage of hard and dry feces or stools. Constipation can happen by itself or can be a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Constipation can result from malignancy, inflammation, trauma, dehydration, obstruction and other abnormal processes.
Constipation is common in young children and the elderly but can occur in any age group or population. Constipation can be due to a mild condition, such as hemorrhoids. Constipation can also happen in a moderate condition, disorder or disease, such as hypothyroidism. Constipation can also be due to serious, even life-threatening conditions, including colon cancer or intestinal obstruction.
Depending on the cause, constipation can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when constipation occurs after a single episode of delaying having a bowel movement when there is an urge. Constipation can also be recurring over a longer period of time, such as when constipation is due to consuming a diet that is lacking in fiber and fluids.
Constipation can be the result of a wide variety of gastrointestinal or digestive conditions. These include irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, anal fistula and ileus.
Constipation can occur in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other common symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, dehydration, rectal pain, blood in stool and fever.
Complications of constipation include fecal impaction, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, hemorrhoids and anal fissure. The underlying disorder, disease or condition that is causing constipation can cause complications, some of which can be serious, even life-threatening. For example, intestinal obstruction can cause peritonitis, shock and death if not treated rapidly.
Diagnosing constipation and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. The abdomen is examined for abdominal pain and abdominal distension. Using a stethoscope, a licensed health care provider will also listen to the sounds that the bowels make. Certain abnormal sounds, or a lack of bowel sounds, can point to certain illnesses.
A digital rectal examination and testing for fecal occult blood are also generally performed at this time. A digital rectal examination involves inserting a finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities, such as hemorrhoids, and obtain a sample of stool.
The stool sample is then tested for fecal occult blood, which can indicate invisible, hidden blood in the stool and point to certain causes of constipation, such as colon cancer. Your health care provider may also examine the rectum using a lighted instrument called an anoscope. An anoscpoe is inserted a short way into the rectum to look for internal hemorrhoids and other causes of constipation.
Making a diagnosis may also include performing a variety of tests to help to diagnose other potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders. Depending on the suspected cause, this may include performing special imaging tests to see a picture of the insides of the gastrointestinal tract. These may consist of some combination of tests, such as a barium X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and a variety of tests using video imaging technology. These include endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy involve passing a small flexible tube fitted with a camera through the anus into the colon to look for abnormal areas. During this procedure, samples of tissue, called a biopsy, may be taken to be tested to confirm a diagnosis. The upper areas of the gastrointestinal tract can be examined in a similar way through the mouth and esophagus in an endoscopy procedure.
Blood tests can include a complete blood count (CBC). A complete blood count can help determine if an infectious process is present. If there is blood in the stool, a CBC can determine if there has been significant blood loss and a decreased number of red blood cells (anemia).
A diagnosis of constipation and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because constipation may be mild or intermittent and for other reasons. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of constipation.
Treatment of constipation involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of constipation....more »
Constipation: Constipation is a common symptom where a person has difficulty passing feces or unusually dry stool. Note that dry stool is medically considered within the spectrum of "constipation", although many people will use the term...more »
Diagnosing constipation and its cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases, constipation may not be severe enough or last long enough for a person to seek medical care. Older people may assume that constipation is a normal part of the aging process and not promptly seek medical care. In addition, normal patterns of having bowel movements differ between people, ...more misdiagnosis »
The following medical conditions are some of the possible
causes of Constipation.
There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor
about your symptoms.
Home medical tests possibly related to Constipation:
Review the causes of these more specific types of Constipation:
Review causes of types of Constipation in more specific categories:
Review causes of more specific types of Constipation:
Our database lists various combinations of symptoms associated with Constipation. Visit the Constipation: Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.
Treatment plans for constipation are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, minimizes the discomfort of constipation and softens the stool so it can be passed normally.
Many ...Constipation Treatments
Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Constipation may include:
Review further information on Constipation Treatments.
Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Constipation may include:
Real-life user stories relating to Constipation:
Symptom specific forums: The following patient stories in our interactive forums and message boards relate to Constipation or relevant symptoms:
Various tests are used in the diagnosis of Constipation. Some of these are listed below :
The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible
causes of Constipation as a symptom.
Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using,
including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.
When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Constipation as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.
Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:
Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Constipation:
During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Constipation. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.
Create your printable checklist here.
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The best known, irritable bowel syndrome, is over...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal imbalance. The digestive system contains a variety of "good" bacteria that aid digestion, and they can...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, but can also kill the "good"...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed (it can, of course, also fail to be...read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of symptoms (see symptoms of...read more »
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Research extensive quality ratings and patient safety measures for hospitals, clinics and medical facilities in health specialties related to Constipation:
Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:
Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:
Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible
causes of Constipation as a symptom include:
Constipation is passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than three times a week. People who are constipated may find it difficult and painful to have a bowel movement. Other symptoms of constipation include feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and sluggish.
Many people think they are constipated when, in fact, their bowel movements are regular. For example, some people believe they are constipated, or irregular, if they do not have a bowel movement every day. However, there is no right number of daily or weekly bowel movements. Normal may be three times a day or three times a week depending on the person. In addition, some people naturally have firmer stools than others.
At one time or another almost everyone gets constipated. Poor diet and lack of exercise are usually the causes. In most cases, constipation is temporary and not serious. Understanding causes, prevention, and treatment will help most people find relief. (Source: excerpt from Constipation: NIDDK)
Constipation is passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than... (Source: excerpt from Constipation: NIDDK)
Constipation; irregular and infrequent or difficult evacuation of the bowels.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Irregular and infrequent or difficult evacuation of the bowels; can be a symptom of intestinal obstruction or diverticulitis
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Condition in which bowel movements are infrequent or incomplete.
- (Source - CRISP)
A condition in which stool becomes hard, dry, and difficult to pass, and bowel movements don’t happen very often. Other symptoms may include painful bowel movements, and feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and sluggish.
- (Source - National Cancer Institute)
The list of organs typically affected by Constipation may include, but is not limited to:
This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Constipation. Of the 726 causes of Constipation that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:
The following list of conditions have 'Constipation' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Constipation or choose View All.
The following list of medical conditions have Constipation or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
Ask or answer a question about symptoms or diseases at one of our free interactive user forums.
Medical story forums: If you have a medical story then we want to hear it.
This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Constipation based
on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:
Depending on the seriousness of the onset of Constipation, you may want to consult one of the following medical professionals.
Important:In extreme cases, always seek advice from emergency services :
Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Constipation and many other medical conditions:
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