What is Constipation and what are its Symptoms?

Constipation is painful frustrating condition of bowel habit. Most of us (almost all of us) get constipation at some point of time. But there are people who have chronic constipation and do not seem to get relief from this chronic painful and frustrating condition.

How constipation can be defined?

Constipation is not easy to define medically. Medical definition of constipation is “less than three bowel movements in one week or seven days”. But number of bowel habit or bowel frequency is not the only criteria for definition of constipation. Many individuals with constipation have normal bowel movements, but have difficulty in passing stool. Constipation can also be called if a person has infrequent, difficult and incomplete defecation.

Bowel habit depends on several factors such as amount of fiber intake, physical activity level, amount of water intake (low water intake makes stool hard and difficult to pass), personal habits, health status of an individuals etc. (hence it can not be a sole criterion for defining constipation).

Normal bowel habit is one bowel movement per day in most developing countries (due to intake of high fiber unrefined foods), but in most developed western countries common bowel habit is once in two days due to intake of loss fibers. Due to high fiber intake it is not uncommon in developing countries to have more than one (two or three) bowel movement a day, this may constitute diarrhea in Western countries.

Constipation can be acute constipation, chronic constipation and severe constipation. Acute constipation is generally due to some underlying medical condition that may be severe and need immediate medical intervention. Chronic constipation is the commonest form and usually benign in nature. Food habit and physical inactivity are the commonest causes of chronic constipation. Constipation is considered severe if there is less than one bowel movement in a week and need long term management and counseling.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

Constipation symptoms may vary from one person to another depending on various factors.

  • Infrequent bowel movements (less than 3 bowel movements a week).
  • Hard stool consistency, this makes it difficult to pass.
  • Sense of incomplete evacuation of bowel after defecation.
  • Straining at stool.

Sometimes constipation may also have other associated symptoms such as abdominal pain and/or cramps, abdominal discomfort, bleeding (especially in acute constipation), nausea, vomiting and sometimes even weight loss.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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1 Comment

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