Constipation is infrequent bowel movements (less than three a week) or difficultly in passing stools. Constipation symptoms include hard stools and feeling incomplete bowel movements.
In most cases, constipation is a symptom, not a disease. Below is a list of some of the most common causes of constipation:
Most people have short periods of constipation at some point. Most of the time, it can be helped through diet, drinking more water, exercise and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. If you are feeling constipated, try those first.
Sometimes, though, it doesn’t go away or keeps coming back. You should talk to your doctor about your constipation when:
When you talk to your doctor, tell them about all medications, even OTC drugs, you are taking, as they could be a cause of constipation.
Your doctor will decide if tests are needed to figure out if your constipation is the symptom of an underlying health problem.
If your doctor decides your constipation is bad enough, there are a few tests that can be done.
To start, your doctor may take samples of blood, urine and stool.
The first step in treating constipation is to know that normal bowel function varies widely, from three bowel movements a day to three a week.
Each person must figure out what is normal for him or herself to notice a change in their normal bowel habits.
Above all, know that feeling better takes time and effort.
A diet with fresh fruits, veggies and a lot of water, along with regular exercise, is a good start for most people with constipation or irregular bowel habits.
Every day you should:
There are a number of options to help treat constipation — in addition to the daily habits above — that can be found over the counter, without a prescription. These options come in many forms, such as pills, powders (to mix with liquid), enemas or suppositories. Talk with a health-care professional about your options.
If none of the OTC options help, you and your doctor may talk about trying a prescription medicine next.
There are specific prescription drugs that treat opioid-induced constipation (OIC), such as naloxegol, naldemedine or methylnaltrexone. Your doctor
can tell if these are right for you.
Constipation can feel very bothersome, but it is not often a serious health problem. In some cases, though, it may be a warning of a serious hidden health issue, so be sure to tell your doctor about your symptoms.