Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or if the colon's muscle contractions are slow or sluggish, causing the stool to move through the colon too slowly. As a result, stools can become hard and dry. Common causes of constipation are:
- Not enough fiber in the diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Changes in life or routine such as pregnancy, aging, and travel
- Abuse of laxatives
- Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
- Specific diseases or conditions, such as stroke (most common)
- Problems with the colon and rectum
- Problems with intestinal function (chronic idiopathic constipation)
See your doctor. He will want to perform tests.
The tests the doctor performs depend on the duration and severity of the constipation, the person's age, and whether blood in stools, recent changes in bowel habits, or weight loss have occurred. Most people with constipation do not need extensive testing and can be treated with changes in diet and exercise. For example, in young people with mild symptoms, a medical history and physical exam may be all that is needed for diagnosis and treatment.
Although treatment depends on the cause, severity, and duration of the constipation, in most cases dietary and lifestyle changes will help relieve symptoms and help prevent them from recurring.