What is constipation?
Constipation occurs when bowel movements happen less often than usual or consist of hard, dry stools that are painful or difficult to pass. Constipation usually develops when the digestive system works more slowly than normal.
As food moves through the colon, water is absorbed, and waste is formed. This waste is then pushed toward the rectum as stool. Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water, and the stool becomes hard and dry. This happens when muscle contractions in the colon are too slow, which causes the stool to move through the very slowly as well.
Symptoms and causes of constipation
Constipation can be caused by a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors. A poor diet that lacks fibre and liquid can lead to the condition, as well as pregnancy and ageing. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, you are also more likely to experience constipation too. Additionally, conditions such as colorectal cancer and other complications of the digestive system can cause constipation. Hormonal imbalances related to diseases such as diabetes can lead to the condition as well.
The most prominent symptom of constipation is the inability to effectively pass stools. When you do have a bowel movement, you may pass dry, hard or lumpy stools too.
Symptoms also include:
Diagnosis and treatment
Dr Elliot will enquire about your medical history and symptoms before diagnosing constipation. He will also conduct several tests to confirm the underlying cause of the condition too.
Treatment for constipation depends on the condition’s severity. Generally, however, a change in dietary habits, laxatives and other forms of medication can help manage symptoms. In severe cases, surgery can be performed to relieve you of constipation as well.
When it comes to medical treatment, stimulants, fibre supplements, lubricants, stool softeners, and osmotics, which help fluids to move through the colon effectively, may be used to overcome constipation problems. You may also be given certain medications to draw water into your intestines and speed up the movement of your stool. These medications are usually prescribed if normal, over-the-counter laxative products do not help.
As a specialist gastroenterologist, Dr Michael Elliot specialises in constipation treatment and can suggest a variety of methods to manage the condition. In severe cases, however, Dr Elliot may suggest surgery to treat constipation.
During surgery, Dr Elliot will work to remove obstructions in the bowel that are causing constipation. If the condition is related to inflammation or infection, however, Dr Elliot may need to remove part of your colon and rectum instead. This will improve your symptoms of constipation and encourage natural bowel movements. In very rare cases, the entire rectum and colon will need to be removed.