Constipation is a subjective feeling of insufficient evacuation of the bowel, and dry or painful passing of stool. There is a popular misconception that it is a must to have at least one bowel movement every day. Medical facts do not support this view.
There are no fixed Symptoms of Constipation except for persons having a serious underlying cause, where Constipation itself is a symptom of that problem. However, some general Constipation Symptoms are followed as guidelines. When the bowel movement is less than three times a week it is considered to be a symptom of Constipation. Other symptoms include hard and dry pellet-like stools, straining too much to pass stools, painful bowel movement, feeling of bloated stomach, uneasiness and sluggishness, and a feeling of incomplete evacuation.
When the patient suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the colon goes into spasms. This alternately causes Constipation and diarrhea, abdominal cramps, gas and bloating. A physical examination may find local anorectal lesions, such as anal fissures, fistulae, strictures, cancer and thrombosed hemorrhoids and stenosis, abscess, rectal prolapse, bleeding, hernia, fecal retention or abdominal distention. In pelvic floor dysfunction the sphincter muscle of the anus tenses rather than relaxes when the patient attempts a bowel movement. In elderly woman a search may reveal a rectocele bulging into the vagina.
Apart from a physical examination, other examination procedures include blood tests (which may reveal hypothyroidism), abdominal x-rays, barium enemas, colonic transit studies, defecography, ano-rectal motility studies, colonic motility studies and more.
The history of the patients' Constipation may indicate various symptoms. It would include the factors like the time spent in the toilet to defecate, the changes - environmental and psychological - that have taken place prior to the onset of the problem, steps taken to control the problem, such as the use of laxatives (laxative abuse is one of the common cause of Constipation), other measures or behavior patterns adopted by the patient to facilitate bowel movements, and the psychological condition of the patient, where Constipation induces mental worries which in turn worsen the condition, in a vicious cycle.
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