What is Constipation
Constipation is a common condition when stools are not passed regularly, or the bowel is unable to empty completely. It causes stool to be hard and lumpy, as well as unusually large or small. Going longer than three days without passing stool is a definite indication of constipation.
The severity of the condition varies from person to person, while many experience it for a short time, for other it can be a long-term chronic condition that causes significant pain and discomfort. It often occurs due to a lack of sufficient fibre and liquids ingested.
Constipation affects people of all ages. It is estimated, in the UK 1 in every 7 adults and 1 in every 3 children suffer from the condition at any given time. It affects twice as many women and men, and is most commonly experienced by older people and women during pregnancy.
Chronic constipation may further lead to the development of haemorrhoids (piles), faecal impaction (dry hard stools collecting in the rectum) and bowel incontinence (leakage of liquid stools)
Normal bowel habits vary for every person, some people go to the toilet a few times in a day, while other may only go few time in a week. Passing stool less frequently than is usual for you, is usually the first sign of constipation. Difficult to pass any stool, feeling unable to empty your bowel completely or when your stool appear dry, hard, lumpy and unsually big or small, are further signs of constipation.
Other symptoms commonly associated with constipation include;
- Stomach ache and cramps
- Feeling bloated
- Feeling sick
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms usually vary slightly for children, in addition to irregular bowel movements, they also experience a loss of appetite, lack of energy, being irritable and soiling their clothes.
Constipation occurs when stools remain in the large intestine for too long, and the colon absorbs too much water from it, causing them become hard and dry, and difficult to pass.
- A lack of fibre in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables and cereals.
- A change in routine or lifestyle
- Ignoring the urge to pass stool
- Side effects of some medicines, such as indigestion, antidepressants, epilepsy, schizophrenia, diuretics etc.
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Lack of exercise
- Anxiety or depression
In children, a poor diet or the fear of using the toilet can also lead to it.Moreover, constipation can itself be a symptom of an underlying condition such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Multiple Sclerosis etc.
As it is a very common condition, it’s not too hard to diagnose, without any additional tests. Your GP can confirm the diagnosis based on your symptoms and medical history, he may also ask questions about your diet, level of exercise and any recent change in your routine.
The doctor might conduct a physical exam, feeling your abdomen, and if required carry out a rectal examination. In the case of severe symptoms and discomfort, blood tests could be recommended to check your hormone levels
Constipation usually passes with dietary and lifestyle changes, but might sometimes require treatment depending on the cause, duration and the severity of your symptoms.
We can prescribe oral laxatives to help clear your bowels, it is an effective treatment, though in some cases it might take months to re-establish a regular bowel pattern
Laxatives help you pass stools. We offer bulk-forming laxatives, such as Fybogel, to help the stool retain fluids making it easier to pass; and osmotic laxatives, such as Lactulose, Movicol or Laxido, that increases the amount of fluid in your bowel and stimulate your body for easier passage of stool.