Chronic constipation: Definition, causes, treatment, and more – Medical News Today

Posted: January 29, 2021 at 7:52 pm


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Constipation is a common digestive complaint. Most bouts of constipation are short-term, or acute. However, some people experience long-term symptoms, known as chronic constipation.

Chronic constipation can be uncomfortable and can interfere with a persons day-to-day functioning. While some causes of the condition are relatively benign and highly treatable, others can be more serious.

This article outlines what chronic constipation is, including its symptoms and causes. We also outline information on treating and preventing chronic constipation, and offer advice on when to see a doctor.

Everyone experiences constipation at some point. Most cases of constipation are short-term or acute. These often occur following a change in diet or exercise habits, and is treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

In rarer cases, constipation may be chronic, meaning symptoms are long-lasting. Doctors consider constipation chronic if it:

To receive a diagnosis of chronic constipation, a person must experience at least three of the following symptoms within a 3-month period:

Secondary symptoms of chronic constipation include:

Although people with chronic constipation experience similar symptoms, the cause of constipation may vary.

The most common triggers of constipation include:

Less common causes of constipation include:

Certain dietary supplements and medications can also trigger constipation. These include:

It may not always be possible to determine what causes constipation. Chronic constipation that occurs without a known trigger is known as chronic idiopathic constipation.

Treatments for chronic constipation may vary according to its severity and its underlying cause. Some possible treatment options are below.

The first-line treatment for chronic constipation is to make any necessary diet and lifestyle changes. These may include:

Dietary fiber adds bulk to the stool, enabling it to pass through the intestines more quickly. A doctor may advise gradually increasing fiber intake by introducing more fruit and vegetables into the diet. Switching from refined grains to whole grains will also help boost fiber intake.

Water softens stools, allowing them to pass smoothly through the intestines and rectum.

Regular movement increases muscle activity in the intestines, helping stools pass through the digestive system. Therefore, increasing physical activity encourages more regular bowel movements.

If a person routinely ignores their bodys signals to poop, they may no longer experience the urge for a bowel movement, which can worsen constipation.

If diet and lifestyle changes are not effective, a person may wish to try OTC medications to soften the stool or increase bowel movements. Some options include:

If OTC laxatives and natural remedies do not alleviate a persons constipation, a doctor may recommend a prescription medication. The drugs lubiprostone (Amitiza) and linaclotide (Linzess) are generally effective in treating chronic constipation.

Biofeedback training (BT) is a type of behavioral therapy that aims to treat constipation and other types of bowel dysfunction.

BT involves learning how to relax and tighten the pelvic muscles that support the bladder and bowel. Relaxing these muscles at the right time can increase the likelihood of a successful bowel movement.

During BT, a therapist may insert a long tube called a catheter into the rectum to measure tension in the muscles. They will then talk the person through a series of exercises to help relax and tighten the muscles.

An older study from 2006 compared the efficacy of BT and laxative use among people with pelvic floor issues. The researchers found BT was more effective.

Surgery for chronic constipation is rare. However, a person may require surgical interventions to remove a bowel blockage or part of a diseased colon.

The best way to prevent constipation is to adopt lifestyle habits that promote good digestion. Examples include:

The following groups are at increased risk of experiencing chronic constipation:

Passing hard stools or constantly straining to poop can lead to complications, such as:

Chronic constipation is rarely the result of a serious underlying condition. It usually improves with lifestyle changes and OTC treatments.

A person should speak with their doctor if the above treatments do not ease their constipation. A doctor may recommend tests to check for underlying health issues.

In very rare cases, chronic constipation may be a sign of colorectal cancer.

A person should talk with their doctor if they experience chronic constipation that affects their physical or mental health or their day-to-day life.

People should also speak with a doctor if their constipation accompanies any of the following symptoms:

Chronic constipation can be uncomfortable and disabling. However, there are treatments that can help ease constipation and its symptoms.

Dietary and lifestyle changes are typically the first-line treatment for constipation. If these are ineffective, a person may try OTC remedies to help soften stools or encourage bowel movements.

People should speak with their doctor if they experience chronic constipation that does not respond to lifestyle changes or OTC treatments. A doctor may prescribe medications to ease their symptoms. They may also recommend tests to check for any underlying health conditions.

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Chronic constipation: Definition, causes, treatment, and more - Medical News Today

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January 29th, 2021 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Nutrition