Constipation is one of the most common GI problems in the USA. Constipation is defined as either infrequent bowel movements (less than 3 a week) or having to strain to have a bowel movement. In general, constipation occurs more frequently as we get older.
What are the causes of constipation?
- Not enough fiber in the diet
- Not drinking enough water or dehydration
- Side effect of medications
- Diseases of the digestive system including irritable bowel syndrome, blockage, colon cancer, colonic inertia, etc.
When should I get concerned about constipation?
If you have following symptoms, you may need to see your provider or Dr Kethu immediately as it may indicate a more serious problem:
- Sudden changing of bowel habits
- Blood in the stool
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Fever are feeling weak
Are there any tests I should have?
Your health care provider will decide which test you should have based on your age, symptoms, duration, etc. You may have blood tests to check your blood count, thyroid function, etc. Sometimes, x-ray or CT-scan of the abdomen is recommended if blockage is suspected. If you have other symptoms mentioned above, you may need a colonoscopy.
How is constipation treated?
The treatment will be really dependent on how severe and frequent your symptoms are. If you have occasional, mild constipation, Dr. Kethu may recommend increasing the fiber intake and drinking enough water. If the constipation is severe and more frequent, you may need medications. There are several medications both over-the-counter and by prescription based on your symptoms.