Constipation refers to a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements, which happens with varying frequency for every individual. If you go longer than three days without one, this is a red flag, as the stool hardens and becomes more difficult to pass. Contrary to popular myth, wastes stored in the body at length are not necessarily dangerous, although it can be a symptom of a more serious disorder like colon cancer. Most cases are inconvenient and uncomfortable, but not life threatening.
- Two or fewer bowel movements in a week.
- Straining during bowel movements.
- Hard stools and/or incomplete evacuation.
- Pain and vomiting if constipation persists.
Who is at risk?
Women and elderly persons are most commonly affected by constipation. It also has a tendency to occur in persons who are sedentary, stressed, dehydrated, traveling frequently, suffering from hypothyroidism, or lacking fiber in their diet.
The best prevention is a balanced, well hydrated diet. If you find yourself already in the dilemma of constipation, drink extra water and eat more fruits and vegetables to aid the process of moving your bowels. Exercise will likely be prescribed too. A doctor might direct you to over the counter laxatives or fiber supplements.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
Severe symptoms lasting more than three weeks should be evaluation by a physician. A lack of movement in children can be caused by fecal impaction, which could be serious if not treated by a doctor.
Treatment for constipation is available now at Mountain Lakes Medical Center in Mountain Lakes, NJ.
For more information on constipation, see the following websites:
Constipation in Children, by eMedicineHealth
Mayo Clinic on Constipation in Pregnancy
American Gastroenterological Association on Constipation
Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of MtLakesMedical.com. The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.