The Basics of Constipation

The Basics of Constipation

What is Constipation?

Constipation has different meanings depending on the individual. Most commonly, it refers to infrequent bowel movements, but it may also refer to a decrease in the volume or weight of stool, the need to strain to have a movement, a sense of incomplete evacuation, or the need for enemas, suppositories or laxatives in order to maintain regularity.

Individuals at Risk for Constipation

  • Older than age 45
  • Recent abdominal or perianal surgery or general anesthesia
  • Limited physical activity, such as bed rest, poor mobility secondary to chronic disability and decline in
  • general physical activity.
  • Inadequate diet including less than 15 grams of dietary fiber per day.
  • Inadequate fluid intake, less than 1000 milliliters per day
  • Use of drugs known to be associated with increased risk of constipation, such as painkillers, anti-depressants, tranquilizers, and other psychiatric medications, blood pressure medication, diuretics, iron supplements, calcium supplements, and aluminum containing antacids
  • Colon Cancer
  • Problems with the nerves and muscles in the digestive system
  • History of chronic constipation.
  • History of laxative abuse.
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis

When should I call my doctor about constipation?

Any persistent change in bowel habit, increase or decrease in frequency or size of stool, an increased difficulty in evacuating warrants evaluation. Whenever constipation symptoms persist for more than three weeks, you should consult your physician. If blood appears in the stool, consult your physician right away.

What tests are used to diagnose fecal incontinence?

Anal Manometry: a test performed to evaluate patients with constipation or fecal incontinence.

Defecography :  is an X-Ray test that shows the rectum and anal canal as they change during defecation (having a bowel movement).

Pudendal Nerve Terminal Motor Latency:  this test measures the function of the pudendal nerves, which are involved in bowel control.

Anal Electromyography (EMG): this test determines if there is any nerve or anal sphincters damaged

Endoluminal Ultrasound or Anal Ultrasound:  this test helps evaluate the shape and structure of the anal sphincter muscles and surrounding tissue.

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From Bangkok Hospital Phuket