Signs and symptoms are what define constipation. Bowel movements that are so infrequent that the stool becomes hard and then elimination becomes painful and difficult are the initial symptoms. Abdomen pain can also accompany constipation.
Diagnosis constipation is dependent on a physical exam and a complete medical history. Medical practitioners will want to determine if a blockage is present in the small intestine or colon. Other tests would include, but are not limited to an endocrine condition, hypothyroidism, an electrolyte disturbance or hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia is high levels of calcium in the blood stream. A review of the patient’s medications will also be done to eliminate possible causes for the constipation. Diagnostic procedures are stool sample testing, barium enema with imaging, colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy. A stole sample test will check for blood in the stool that may be visible to the human eye, also known as occult blood. A Barium enema will coat the lower bowel with barium that will make the rectum, colon and in some cases part of the small intestine very visible on an x-ray. This will give will provide information about the structure of these organs. A sigmoidoscope is a procedure in which a thin flexible tube with a light and camera is inserted into the rectum to clearly view the rectum and colon. A colonoscopy is the most invasive procedure, but provides the best results. A colonoscopy will enable the physician to examine the entire colon.
Constipation can be the result of poor diet, hormonal changes, medication side effects or abnormal bowel anatomy. More specific causes of constipation are: dehydration, diuretics, poor fiber content in diet. Abnormal bowel processing can be due to hypothyroidism, hypokalemia, injured or abnormal anus, illness such as cold and flu, acute porphyria (rare inherited disorder) and lead poisoning. Constipation can be caused by injury or damage to the rectum or intestine, in which the passage is blocked or narrow. These conditions are caused by strictures, tumors, and strictures. Some constipation can be psychosomatic due to stress or dramatic changes in living.
The easiest way to manage constipation is lifestyle changes. Adding a fiber supplement to the diet and increasing fluid intake is very helpful. Fiber supplements should be added slowly to the diet so as not to aggravate constipation. I use Fiber gummies and they are delicious. Just 2 chewies are 5 grams of fiber which is 30% the RDA. A stool softener such as Colace (docusate sodium) can be used to make digestion and elimination occur more normally. Stool softeners on a regular basis, can increase complications for a patient. Pregnant women should check with their doctor before taking a laxative or stool softener. Exercise will also improve the regulation of bowel movements, especially swimming and walking.