Constipation can be an uncomfortable experience and one that may have concerned you for some time. The following information can help answer your questions about constipation and help you understand your doctor’s choice of treatment.
What is Constipation?
Constipation may mean different things to different individuals. Most commonly, it refers to the passage of too few bowel movements per week. It may also describe having hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass, a decrease in the size of the stool, or needing to strain to have a bowel movement. Some individuals describe a sense of not emptying their bowel completely or the need for enemas, suppositories or laxatives in order to have a bowel movement.
The definition of normal frequency of having a bowel movement ranges from 3 times a day to 3 times a week. Chances are you know what is regular for you–and therefore what is irregular for you also.
What Causes Constipation?
In trying to understand why you sometimes experience constipation, remember that your body’s needs are unique. From time to time these needs change, sometimes as a result of diet and exercise. In turn, your body responds with certain symptoms, including constipation. Common causes of occasional constipation include:
- Poor eating habits (for example, too much junk food, too much caffeine, irregular eating times)
- Diet lacking in fiber and/or fluids
- Lack of exercise
- Some medications (including pain medications, tranquilizers, psychiatric medications, diuretics, iron supplements, calcium supplements, and aluminum containing antacids)
If you are constipated frequently and making the following recommended changes does not help, it is wise to schedule an appointment with a Colon and Rectal Surgeon. More serious causes of constipation include narrowing of the colon or growths in the colon. Constipation may be associated with some medical conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injuries.
Sometimes constipation is caused by problems with the function of the pelvic floor muscles. The muscles may not relax appropriately when trying to pass stool, making it difficult and sometimes painful to have a bowel movement. Biofeedback therapy may be helpful in retraining these muscles to allow for easier passage of stool.
To learn more about treatments for constipation or to schedule a second opinion please contact our Concierge Patient Coordinator at (210) 490-2828 or toll free at (866) 259-3778.