Chronic constipation can be painful and make everyday tasks unbearable. Constipation occurs when waste or stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, causing it to become hard and dry.
Typically, constipation is a short term problem and can be solved with a change in diet or over the counter medications. However, you may have chronic constipation if symptoms are consistent for about three months.
Some of the symptoms of chronic constipation are:
- Straining during bowel movements
- Lumpy or hard stools
- Feeling like your bowel is never completely empty
- Feeling like your bowel is blocked
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week
- The need to manually pass stool
- Abdominal pains, discomfort, bloating and gas pains.
The cause of chronic constipation can vary, including bowel obstruction, hormonal fluctuations, anxiety, depression, slow gastrointestinal movement, certain prescription pain medications, colon cancer, certain medical diseases and other factors.
The first step in finding the best treatment for chronic constipation is talking to a healthcare provider. When going to see your doctor about chronic constipation it’s important to be prepared in order to give them all the necessary information and to get answers to any questions you may have. Some of the information you will want to have ready is any symptoms you’re experiencing, key personal information, any medications you are taking, and any questions you have.
There are a number of different tests and procedures used to diagnose chronic constipation including:
- Examination of the rectum and lower, or sigmoid, colon (sigmoidoscopy)
- Examination of the rectum and entire colon (colonoscopy)
- Evaluation of anal sphincter muscle function (anorectal manometry)
- Evaluation of how well food moves through the colon (colonic transit study)
Treatment for chronic constipation can be different for everyone. Typically, a diet and lifestyle change is implemented to help treat it. These changes are intended to increase the speed at which stool moves through your intestines. These changes may include an increase in fiber and increase in exercise. If the changes made don’t help your doctor may recommend medications or surgery.