Understanding Constipation And How Serious it Can Be
If you are feeling constipated then the good news is you’re not alone. It’s estimated that one in five people are affected by constipation at any given time! In most cases, it is a temporary inconvenience and one that resolves itself. But, if it doesn’t go away you need to see a specialist and understand the implications for your health.
What Is Constipation?
Constipation is generally perceived to be an inability to pass stools or difficulty passing them because they are hard. However, it can also be used to describe people that have passed fewer than three stools per week, are struggling to evacuate their bowels, straining when doing so, or not feeling like they have got everything out.
Although it does affect more women than men, it can affect anyone and is most common in working-age people.
Constipation can resolve by itself. However, if you have gone more than a week and it hasn’t been resolved you need to see a doctor. They will examine you, potentially request further tests, and may even refer you to a colorectal surgeon to discuss further options.
If you ignore constipation it is likely to get worse. The straining as you attempt to pass stools will lead to hemorrhoids and potentially anal fissures. These are painful and the fissures increase the likelihood of infection.
Alongside this, constipation can lead to fecal impaction and rectal prolapse. Both of which are likely to need surgery to correct.
Causes Of Constipation
There are many different reasons why you can be constipated. It can be as simple as having developed an irritable bowel. In fact, this is the cause in 50% of cases.
It can also be a result of weakness in your bowel muscles, meaning they haven’t got enough strength to pass the stools. It can also simply be a result of a slow digestive system.
The above are all viewed as primary constipations. There are also an array of secondary constipation causes, including:
- Obstruction due to a disease or some other issue
- Pregnancy can cause constipation
- Thyroid disorders and diabetes can cause constipation
- High calcium levels or low potassium
- Current medication
- Neurological issues such as MS or Parkinsons
Your doctor will guide you but, if you are suffering from primary constipation it is likely that some lifestyle changes can help you eliminate the issue. The most common changes to start with are including more fibre in your diet, exercising more, and drinking more water.
At the same time, it can help to ensure you are seated correctly on the toilet to aid bowel movement.
A doctor may also suggest laxatives to help pass your stools or they may even suggest an enema to help clear your system.
In extreme cases, surgery may be the only answer. This usually involves removing part of the colon and is a last resort.
The bottom line is everyone suffers constipation at some point. But, if it persists you should seek help, it can be serious.