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What Causes Constipation in Children?

Constipation is common in children and may be related to any of the causes noted in the previous section. In a small number of children, constipation may be the result of physical problems. Children with such defects as the absence of normal nerve endings in portions of the bowel, abnormalities of the spinal cord, thyroid deficiency, mental retardation, and certain other inherited metabolic disorders often suffer symptoms of constipation. Constipation in children, however, usually is due to poor bowel habits.

Studies show that many children who suffer from constipation when they are older have a history of passing stools that are firmer than average in their early weeks of life. Because this occurs before there are significant variations in diet, habits, or attitudes, it suggests children who develop constipation have a normal tendency to have firmer stools. Such children suffer little from the tendency unless it is aggravated by poor bowel habits or poor diet.

Constipation may result in pain when the child has bowel movements. Cracks in the skin, called fissures, may develop in the anus. These fissures can bleed or increase pain, causing a child to withhold his or her stool. Children may withhold their stools for other reasons as well. Some find it inconvenient to use toilets outside of the home. Also, severe emotional stress caused by family crises or difficulties at school may cause children to withhold their stools. In these instances, the periods between bowel movements may become quite long, in some cases lasting longer than one or two weeks. These children may develop fecal impaction’s, a situation where the stool is packed so tightly in the bowel that the normal pushing action of the bowel is not enough to expel the stool spontaneously.

written by Joy Seeman

© 2009 HIC Digestive Health

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