Travel due to schedule changes, stress, and poor diet
This problem is more common in older adults.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
An inactive lifestyle
Lengthy bed rest due to surgery or an accident
A diet that is high in fat and sugar and low in fiber
Problems may be:
Problems passing stool, despite straining
A feeling of fullness in the belly
Rectal pain and pressure
Passing stool that is hard, dry, and small
Feeling of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you have:
Constipation that lasts longer than 2 to 3 weeks
A painful or swollen belly
Nausea or vomiting
Signs of an infection, such as fever or chills
Pain or burning in the anal area with or without a bowel movement
Bloody or black stool
Been losing weight
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your bowel movements. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may insert a gloved finger into the rectum to examine it. This is called a digital rectal exam.
Blood tests may be done.
Images may be taken of the colon. This can be done with:
Camilleri M, Kerstens R, et al. A placebo-controlled trial of prucalopride for severe chronic constipation. N Engl J Med. 2008;358(22):2344-2354.
Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Constipation in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/constipation-in-adults. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Constipation in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/constipation-in-children. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Paquette IM, Varma M, et al. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons' Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Management of Constipation. Dis Colon Rectum. 2016 Jun;59(6):479-492.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 2/9/2021
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