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Health Services

CONSTIPATION

EphNotes

Constipation is described as difficult, uncomfortable, or infrequent bowel movements that are hard and dry. In most people, constipation is harmless, but it can indicate and underlying disorder.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:

  • Infrequent bowel movements, sometimes accompanied by abdominal swelling
  • Hard feces
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Pain or bleeding with bowel movements
  • Sensation of continuing fullness after a bowel movement

CAUSES

Constipation is usually caused by one of the following:

  • Inadequate fluid intake
  • Insufficient fiber in the diet. (Fiber adds bulk, holds water, and creates easily passed, soft feces.)
  • Inactivity; depression
  • Stress

PREVENTIVE MEASURES:

  • Eat a well-balanced, high-fiber diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day

TREATMENT

General Measures:

  • Set aside a regular time each day for bowel movements. The best time is often within 1 hour after breakfast. Don’t try to hurry. Sit at least 10 minutes, whether or not a bowel movement occurs.
  • Drinking hot water, tea or coffee may helf stimulate the bowel
  • If constipation persists for 3 or 4 days, use a non-prescription, disposable enema for temporary relief

MEDICATION:

For occasional constipation, you may use stool softeners, mild non-prescription laxatives, or enemas. Don’t use laxatives or enemas regularly as this can cause dependency. The best laxatives are bulk-formers, such as bran, psyllium, polycarbophil, and mathylcellulose (Citrucel, Metamucil, etc.).

SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IF:

  • Constipation persists despite self-care, especially if constipation represents a change in your normal bowel patterns
  • Constipation is accompanied by fever or severe abdominal pain

Information provided by University of Missouri – Rolla Health Center


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