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All About Constipation: Definition, Symptoms and Types

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This post is about constipation, its symptoms, causes and other related conditions. In the modern day world, it is one of the most common condition among people. Most cases can be sorted simply by following minor changes in life style. Very few cases may be more complex and may need expert medical attention and advice. In order to make it easier for the reader to understand or grasp the content of this article, we have divided it into sub-topics.

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1.       What is constipation?

Before digging further, it is necessary to understand the definition of constipation. Once we have a solid definition, it is a lot easier to understand and know things in their right perspective.

To define constipation, it is important to look at the meaning of the word itself i.e. what does the actual term itself mean? It has been derived from the Latin word “constipare” which means to “press” or to “crowd together.” Now whatever the definition or whichever way it is defined, certain ideas automatically flock into our mind with “press”  and “crowd together” like hard, coming close, movements, etc.

So what shall be its general definition? Broadly speaking constipation is a condition, a symptom or a sign of the body in which the stool becomes hard and thin; its movements may become significantly slow, and it is hard or difficult to pass the stools out. The number of visits to the toilet i.e. passing out stool may become very infrequent or less. Although, there is no set number of visits or frequencies which can be termed as a sign of constipation;  it varies from individual to individual. However, any number less than 3 to 4 times a week is regarded as a sign of constipation.

2.       What are the Symptoms of Constipation

There is a long list of the symptoms of constipation. That does not mean that anyone suffering from it should have all the symptoms. Again, it shall depend on case to case basis. Some people may have more signs while others may have only a few. Here are some of the most common symptoms that have been noted in the sufferers of constipation.

  1. Abdominal Pain: People often complain of intermittent abdominal pain, stomach cramps, feeling of having a swollen stomach and sickness. Constipation problem affects the digestive system and hence colon tract may have abnormal pain signs.
  2. Change in Bowel Habits: This can be in the form of infrequent passing of stools. As stated earlier, if you pass the stool  less than 3 or 4 times a week, then there are high chances that you are constipated. Regular change in bowl habits is also one of its most common symptoms.
  3. Fecal Incontinence: The stool may by very dry and hard and even lumpy. The colour of the stool may also be dark or like pencil (thin and black). It may be abnormally large or just the opposite i.e. too small. This also accompanies with the symptom of feeling of non-emptying or incomplete emptying.
  4. Flatulence: This is another common constipation symptom. As the waste remains inside the intestine, it causes to produce gases which are expelled through the rectum in the form of flatulence.
  5. Rectal pain: Abdominal pain is often extended to rectal pain in case of severe constipation. The stool is very hard and it is difficult to pass on through the rectum. Sometimes, the rectum may even start bleeding because of cuts or fissures.
  6. Fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, cough aches, pains have also been associated with constipation.
  7. Irregular bowel syndrome or IBS is another among the symptoms of constipation. In case of IBS the frequency of passing the bowels does not stay regular. At times, it may be more while at others, it may be infrequent.
  8. Other Symptoms of the Problem: Stress, anxiety, weakness, unexplained weight loss, bad breath and vomiting are some of the other most common signs of constipation.  

3.       Types of Constipation

There are two types of constipation. The first is called chronic constipation while the second is called acute constipation. Following is a brief description of both types.

  1. Chronic Constipation: This is when constipation has developed over times. It does not start all of sudden but is developed within the body due to a variety of reasons. It may happen because of shortage of enough liquid in the body, eating too much meat, less fibre, fatty foods etc. According to a survey 3 million people in America are reported to be suffering from frequent or what is called as chronic constipation. It is generally believed that chronic constipation is not serious and simple change in life style can solve the problem. However, according to colon clean sweep site, it can be, sometimes, serious and my even cause death. According to the website, it may happen because there can be many underlying causes for chronic constipation such as Diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s disease, Colon Cancer, Polyps etc.
  2. Acute Constipation: The second type is called acute. It is called acute in the sense that it may be a recent onset or very occasional. It might not have occurred before and may suddenly appear. Acute constipation is usually more sever and may require urgent attention of the doctor. Any other serious disorder can be the cause of acute constipation and hence it is important to assess it urgently by qualified

4.       Constipation in Adults

Constipation is common in adults as well as children and even babies. Among the adults, it can occur in men and women. Almost all the symptoms and signs of constipation are the same in adult men and women. Lack of fluids, inactivity, bad diet, stress, lack of exercise, malnutrition etc are some of the most common culprits for constipation in adults.

As we have seen above, constipation is not a disease itself but rather a symptom of some other problem in the body. In many cases, it can be just a temporary disorder and may go away after some time. In other cases, it may be tougher and you may just need some basic life style changes to overcome the problem. However, in some cases, it can be quite serious and proper attention need to be paid to it. Best thing is always consult your doctor before treating any ailment to make sure to stay on the safe side.

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