Constipation is a common condition that involves infrequent or hard bowel movements that may occur as a result of insufficient fluid consumption or a diet that does not contain enough fiber. Depending on how often you normally have a bowel movement will determine what is considered to be “infrequent” for each individual patient, but is usually defined as fewer than three stools a week. Patients with irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes or other conditions may be at an increased risk of experiencing constipation.
Although constipation is not usually a serious condition, it can lead to complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, fecal impaction or rectal prolapse. It is important to seek prompt medical attention for persistent constipation.
Most cases of constipation are temporary and can be resolved through changes in diet and fluid consumption or increasing physical activity. Some patients may require medications, such as over-the-counter laxatives, to help treat constipation and encourage bowel movements. Your doctor will inform you on how to prevent constipation and keep stools from accumulating in the future through healthy bowel habits.