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WHAT IS CONSTIPATION?

Constipation is a condition in which the frequency of bowel movement is less than three times per week. It occurs when water in colon gets absorbed too much. Individuals start to strain in order to defecate as the consistency of the stool become hard and pebble-like and gives the sense of incomplete evacuation. This condition is quite common and is seen in one out of five individuals. This condition is observed often as one gets old and most frequently seen in women than men. According to recent research studies, about 12% of global population is diagnosed with constipation.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF CONSTIPATION?

Constipation occurs due to multiple causes which includes slow transit of the stool, age, diet, physical inactivity, hormonal, psychological, neurological, metabolic disorders, certain drugs, cancer and pregnancy. Low fibre diet, Low fluid intake leads to constipation. Endocrine and metabolic disorders like hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia, hyperparathyroidism, hypopituitarism, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease can cause constipation.

Neurological disorders that lead to constipation include Parkinson’s disease, pelvic floor dysfunction, multiple sclerosis. Voluntary withholding of stool due to pain apprehension, laziness, which is more common in children cause constipation. Irritable bowel disease presents with constipation but with no abdominal pain. Constipation is a major side effect for certain drugs like iron supplements, opioids like codeine, morphine, calcium channel blockers like nifedipine, verapamil, antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics, antispasmodics, aluminum antacids and also when there is an overuse of laxatives.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CONSTIPATION?

When the usual procedure of passing stool is interrupted and one finds it harder to apply pressure or there is a need to apply excessive pressure or the stool is hard, one can conclude to be suffering from constipation.

Symptoms include pain on defecation, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, bleeding on severe straining. Irritability, anxiety, restlessness, fatigue can be noticed as constipation impacts people psychologically. Should the symptoms be neglected, constipation can lead to complications as well. Due to over straining to expel the stool, there is a possibility for anal tear/ anal fissure.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR CONSTIPATION?

Simple lifestyle changes can treat acute constipation. For chronic constipation, the underlying condition must be managed either with drugs or sometimes may require surgical intervention.

Lifestyle changes include consumption of fibre rich foods like fruits, vegetables, flax seeds, leafy vegetables, prunes, whole grains etc. This helps in softening the stool and forms a bulky stool. Drinking plenty of water, atleast 8 glasses of water per day is necessary to improve the transit of the stool. Exercising regularly aids in movement of the stool through the colon

Medication comprises of laxatives that are available over the counter such as stimulants, lubricative, stool softeners and osmotics can treat most cases of constipation

Discuss your symptoms with a GP online during an audio/video consultation, who will identify the cause and recommend treatment.

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