Constipation, at one time or another everyone gets it. Constipation might be a symptom of a more serious medical disease. It is very important to understand that constipation is not a disease but a symptom. Suffering from constipation is not a cause for serious alarm as it is often caused by a poor diet or elimination habits. Constipation is easily relieved by using laxatives and increasing amount of water intake.
Constipation is a common medical condition wherein a person suffers from decreased and irregular bowel movements. In this condition, bowel movement is described as occurring less than 3 times a week. Passing out feces maybe accompanied by pain and stool is described as dry and hard.
Why Causes Constipation
Constipation pain and discomfort are caused by passing hard stools. Water is mainly absorbed in the large intestines. The large intestine also plays a major role in stool formation. The main cause of hardened stools is decreased water intake. Liquids are not only taken up by drinking water but are also contained in food. Water acts as a natural laxative making stools softer and making it easier to pass out.
Stools also harden when they stay abnormally long in the rectum. Stool is normally stored in the rectum before they are passed out through defecation. Establishing normal patterns of elimination is needed for regular bowel movements.
Sedentary lifestyles or lack of exercise may also cause constipation. Peristalsis is the movement of food in the body. General body weakness may cause decreased peristalsis, making stool to stay longer in the rectum before being passed out. Patients recovering after a major surgery often find themselves suffering from constipation. Anesthesia causes decreased peristaltic movements and laxatives are introduced to promote easier defecation.
Another cause for hard stools is the lack of fiber in the diet. A daily intake of fruits, vegetables and grains is recommended. These types of food are not only good for promoting normal stool consistency but are also excellent for preventing many types of diseases such as cancer.
Medicines such as diuretics, or those containing calcium and iron can cause constipation. Diuretics increase water elimination through urination making little water available for the formation of stools making them harder. Calcium is a mineral that causes the body to absorb more water; it is needed for maintaining normal levels of fluid in the body. Medicines containing large amounts of calcium may increase fluid retention decreasing water available for stool formation.
Abnormal growths in the lower digestive tract such as the large intestines or rectum can block the passages making stools to stay longer than normal. Polyp formation or cancers can produce abnormal tissue growth decreasing the surface and diameter of the lower passages.
Managing and treating constipation
Laxatives are used as immediate treatment for people suffering from constipation. Laxatives or stool softeners maybe directly introduced through the anus to instantly induce defecation. Increasing water intake can also be done to improve stool content and act as a lubricant for passing out stool.
Constipation can be easily avoided by lifestyle changes, below are simple ways on how you could maintain a normal bowel elimination pattern.
- Drinking plenty of water and liquids
- Developing regular bowel habits
- Avoiding medicines which may cause constipation
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a diet rich in fiber (read H.I.C. article Fruit and Fiber)
Assessment and diagnostic methods
Diagnosis is based on history, physical examination and visualization through different laboratory tests and techniques. A medical history is taken to assess how long the patient has been suffering from constipation. A patient is also asked to describe the consistency of the stool and asked if there is any blood or any abnormal content in the stool. A quick interview is also made by asking for any recent medications or changes in diet.
For patients found to be exhibiting severe symptoms associated with constipations a laboratory test is done to visualize the anatomy and determine if the digestive tract is functioning normally.
Constipation should not be taken lightly. Constipation might be an early symptom of a serious disease such as cancer. Constipation can cause hemorrhoids. Harder stools require a greater effort during defecation. Straining causes tissue trauma to the anus or linings of the anus and rectum which may result to bleeding. Treatment for hemorrhoids includes warm tub baths, applying creams and placing an ice pack over the affected area.
Constipation is a very common problem; development of the condition is usually related to insufficient water intake and an improper diet. Laxatives are only prescribed when the symptoms of constipation are severe. It is always important to maintain and restore normal bowel movements through natural means and medications are only a last resort. Constipation is usually not a cause of great concern, it is easily treated with a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Ronald Uy , RN
© 2009 Hemorrhoid Information Center