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Constipation: Introduction

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 also result from conditions that occur in other body systems, such as pregnancy and certain types of spinal cord injury. For more details about causes, see causes of constipation.

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 any difficulty with bowel movements or unusually dry stool. It is common in children and older age, but can affect anyone. About 2% of the population suffers from chronic constipation.

There are various symptoms of constipation. Failure to have a daily bowel movement need not necessarily indicate constipation, as everyone has different bowel patterns. Various conditions can cause constipation ranging from poor diet, aging, pregnancy, irritable bowel syndrome, and numerous other underlying conditions. Constipation can also cause diarrhea leading to misdiagnosis. Various medications can cause constipation including overuse of laxatives that can cause a vicious cycle. See also the full list of conditions reporting a symptom of constipation. ...more »

Constipation: Treatments

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 cases of ...more treatments »

Constipation: Misdiagnosis

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 ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Constipation

Treatments for Constipation

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Constipation:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Constipation?

Constipation: Related Patient Stories

Constipation: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Constipation.

Alternative Treatments for Constipation

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Constipation may include:

Types of Constipation

Diagnostic Tests for Constipation

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Constipation: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Constipation:

Causes of Constipation

More information about causes of Constipation:

Disease Topics Related To Constipation

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Constipation:

Constipation: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Constipation

Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases, because it may cause only mild or more »

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The more »

Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, 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" bacteria more »

Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's " 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, more »

Rare type of breast cancer without a lump: There is a less common form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. Its symptoms can be an inflammation of more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment more »

Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, more »

Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not more »

Undiagnosed celiac disease in pregnancy harms fetus: The failure to diagnose the common but less known digestive disease celiac disease (see symptoms of celiac disease) is linked to adverse fetal outcomes. See misdiagnosis of more »

Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases. Some of the better known possibilities are peptic ulcer, more »

Misdiagnosed weight-related causes of infertility: A woman's weight status can affect her level of fertility. Although obesity or overweight can in themselves reduce fertility, there are other weight-related or more »

Constipation: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Constipation

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Constipation:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Constipation, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Constipation: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Constipation

Constipation: Animations

Prognosis for Constipation

Research about Constipation

Visit our research pages for current research about Constipation treatments.

Clinical Trials for Constipation

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Constipation include:

Prevention of Constipation

Prevention information for Constipation has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Constipation.

Statistics for Constipation

Constipation: Broader Related Topics

Constipation Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Constipation, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Constipation

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)

Definitions of Constipation:

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)


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