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Costipation In Adults

Intro

Call your health care provider if you have these concerns:

  • Symptoms are severe and last longer than 3 weeks
  • Recent and significant change in bowel habits, for instance, constipation alternates with diarrhea
  • Severe pain in the anus during a bowel movement
  • Symptoms of other diseases in addition to constipation (For example, tiredness, fatigue, poor tolerance to cold weather may suggest the need to assess your thyroid function for hypothyroidism, an underactive gland.)
  • Constipation for 2 weeks or longer with returning abdominal pain, which might be a sign of lead poisoning

Seek emergency medical care: Although constipation may be extremely uncomfortable, it is usually not serious. It may signal a serious underlying disorder, however, such as cancer of the bowel. Because constipation may lead to complications, go to a hospital's emergency department for any of the following reasons:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anal pain and hemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures or cracks in the mucous lining (severe pain during defecation in the anal area) 
  • Fecal impaction (immovable intestinal contents) in very young children and in older adults
  • Rectal prolapse  or sagging (Occasionally, straining causes a small amount of the intestinal lining to push out from the rectal opening. This may lead to secretion of mucus that may stain underpants.)
  • Recurrent vomiting with constipation and abdominal pain (This may suggest intestinal obstruction and needs urgent hospital treatment.)

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Self-Care at Home
  • Get more fiber or bulk in your diet.
  • Regular physical activity is an important component in bowel health.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and fruit juices. Drink 6-8 glasses of water daily in addition to your beverages with meals.
  • Go to the toilet at the same time every day—preferably after meals—and take enough time.
  • Use nondigestible sugar (lactulose) or specially formulated solutions.
  • Avoid using over-the-counter laxatives. Try to avoid laxatives containing senna (Senokot) or buckthorn (Rhamnus purshiana) because long-term intake may damage the lining of your bowel and injure nerve endings to the colon.
  • Try a daily exercise such as the knee-to-chest position. Such positions may activate bowel movements. Spend about 10-15 minutes in this position. Breathe in and out deeply.
Follow-up

If you have specific disorders such as hypothyroidism, scleroderma, and lupus, you may require regular follow-ups with your health care provider.

Elderly people with a history of fecal impaction and fecal incontinence should be followed regularly to ensure that they do not develop further attacks.

Young people with anorexia nervosa  need a team of specialists to assess and follow the underlying illness, as well as to provide support and education.

Prevention
  • Develop regular bowel habits. Set aside time after breakfast to visit the toilet.
  • Do not ignore the desire to defecate. Answer nature's call to empty your bowel as soon as possible.
  • Eat a well-balance diet that includes wheat grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Recent evidence suggests that increasing dietary fiber intake may help some people with hard stools but is not necessarily of benefit to every person with constipation.
  • Drink plenty of water and fruit juice.
  • Exercise regularly. Walking is especially important.
  • Avoid intake of medications that may cause constipation. Your doctor will help you in this regard.
  • The use of laxatives can actively make a constipation problem worse in the long run and should be avoided.
Outlook

Most people with constipation have no physical disease of the digestive system nor any widespread disease associated with constipation. Most of the time, constipation is related to poor dietary habits, low fluid intake, and lack of exercise.

For people with constipation caused by illness, recovery will be determined by how sick you are.
You will usually recover well if your constipation is caused by hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

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