Constipation is a common problem that makes it hard to have bowel movements. In general constipation refers to passing less than three bowel motions a week. However many people have the sensation of constipation in that they are passing hard stools, feeling that their bowels haven’t completely emptied or having excessive straining.
What is the cause of Constipation?
The most common cause of constipation is related to a low fibre diet. However, there are many other causes of constipation whcih include medications ( such as codiene) and medical conditions such as Diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.
Do I need to see a doctor?
As constipation is a common symptom, your local doctor will be able to guide you through some simple measures such as dietary modification (increase in fibre intake), increased fluid intake, and/or increased physical activity.
A consultation with your gastroenterologist is recommended if you have any of the following:
- Persistent change in bowel habits
- Family history of bowel cancer
- Bleeding from the back passage
- Weight loss
- Persisting abdominal pain
Do I need to have any tests?
Testing for the cause of constipation is generally reserved for people whio do not respond to the simple lifestyle measures or have the alarm features idenified above. Further investigation may include blood tests, X rays, colonoscopy, and/or specialised testing for bowel function.
What is the treatment for constipation?
The treatment for constipation depends on the cause. However, most people will notice an improvement with a change in diet or fibre intake. A high fibre diet is recommended. Laxatives may helpful in the short term, although if ongoing medication for constipation is required a medical consultation is recommended.
What other problems can constipation cause?
Longstanding constipation and straining may lead to other medical problems such as; haemorrhoids, anal fissures (tears in the skin around the back passage) or diverticulosis.