What is constipation?

Constipation is a condition in which a person has three or fewer bowel movements in a week and a feeling that not all stool has passed. The stool can be hard and dry. Sometimes it is painful to pass the stool. Almost everyone gets constipated. In most cases, it lasts a short time and is not serious.

How bad is my constipation?

Mild: Occasional or intermittent symptoms; occasional use of stool softeners, laxatives, dietary modification, or

Moderate: Persistent symptoms with regular use of laxatives or enemas; limiting instrumental activities of daily life (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using a telephone).

Severe: Obstipation with manual evacuation indicated; limiting self-care activities of daily life (eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower, and using the toilet).

How to manage mild constipation?
  • Eating more fruits, vegetables and grains, which are high in fiber
  • Drinking plenty of water and other liquids
  • Getting enough exercise
  • Taking time to have a bowel movement
  • Use laxatives if recommended by physician
  • Asking your doctor if any medicines you take may cause constipation
How to manage moderate to severe constipation?

See a doctor if you notice following symptoms:

What causes constipation?

It may have multiple causes at a time. Cause may include

  • Inadequate consumption of food with fiber
  • Not drinking enough water or other fluids
  • Lack of physical inactivity
  • Cancer treatment may cause constipation. Pain medicine, chemotherapy, and drugs that treat nausea, vomiting, seizures, depression, diarrhea, or high blood pressure can affect digestion.
  • Scar tissue from surgery or cancer growing in the bowel, which can narrow or partially block the bowel
  • A tumor or scar tissue completely blocking the bowel (intestinal obstruction)
  • Cancer pressing on the spinal cord
  • High levels of calcium in the blood
  • Low potassium levels
  • Thyroid gland problems
  • Diabetes

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