Chronic constipation can become quite uncomfortable, and the need for a remedy, treatment, or any kind of relief becomes more and more important. While constipation is a pretty common term that people apply to their health when they’re having difficulty using the restroom, but what exactly constitutes constipation, and what makes it chronic?
What Is Chronic Constipation?
Constipation is a general term that applies to you when you have difficulty passing bowel movements for an extended period. Doctors consider you constipated if you have fewer than three bowel movements per week, with severe or chronic constipation being one or fewer bowel movements a week. If this applies to you, and it’s been going on for more than three weeks, it may be a good time to visit your doctor to determine the cause and a course of treatment.
What Are The Symptoms of Chronic Constipation?
There are a number of potential causes of constipation, many of which can be fixed by small changes to your diet and lifestyle. While food is in your colon, your body absorbs water from it. Constipation occurs when too much water is absorbed, making your stool hard and difficult to pass through your digestive system. If you suffer from constipation, you may find relief after adding fiber to your diet with fruits, veggies, whole grains, drinking more water, regular exercise, going to the bathroom when you feel the urge, and evaluating any medications you may be taking that could be a potential cause of constipation. There are certain medical conditions that could make the condition worse as well, including GI tract issues, IBS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, diabetes, thyroid disease, or lupus.
Most symptoms of constipation include:
- Infrequent defecation (fewer than three times per week)
- It can be further considered as chronic constipation if the problem persists for several months
- Difficulty in initiating a bowel movement
- Passing hard stool
- Cramps or abdominal pains
- Higher than normal flatulence
- Bloating sensation
Should My Doctor Treat My Constipation?
If you suffer from chronic constipation, meaning you’re passing one or fewer bowel movements a week for several weeks in a row, there are some steps doctors can take to relieve you. In most cases, a simple physical exam or diagnostic test can determine the root cause. Most exams include questions about your diet, lifestyle, medications, and your history of constipation. If your constipation comes along with other issues like physical discomfort, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, or if it’s a new health problem for you, your doctor may also perform a physical exam. This may include a simple exam of the anus or diagnostic tests like a barium enema x-ray, a colonoscopy, or a sigmoidoscopy.
Constipation shouldn’t be something you’re forced to live with. If you find yourself struggling to use the bathroom, let GI Associates help you figure out why, and more importantly, how you can change it. Make an appointment online with one of our doctors today.