Constipation is irregular, infrequent or difficult passage of faeces. Constipation is most often defined as having a bowel movement less than 3 times per week. It is often associated with hard stools or problems passing stools. You may have pain while passing stools or may be unable to have a bowel movement after straining or pushing.
It is the most common physiological disorder of the alimentary tract. It is characterized by incomplete evacuation of hard, dried stools. It occurs commonly in children, adolescents, adults on low fibre diets, patients confined to bed, in individuals and in elderly persons.
It is a condition in which:
- fewer than 3 stools passed while a person is eating a high residue diet,
- more than 3 days go by without the passage of stool.
Types of Constipation
There are three main types of constipation.
Atonic constipation (lazy bowel): There is loss of muscle tone causing weak peristalsis due to lack of fluids, roughage and potassium, vitamin B Complex deficiency, irregular defecation habit and poor personelhygiene, excessive purgation or use of enema, sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise.
Spastic constipation: It results from excessive tone of the colonic muscle.
Obstructive constipation: It occurs usually due to obstruction in the colon, cancer or any other obstruction due to inflammation or narrowing of the lumen.
Causes of Constipation
Constipation is most often caused by:
- Low-fiber diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Not drinking enough water
- Delay in going to the bathroom when you have the urge to move your bowels
Stress and travel can also contribute to constipation or other changes in bowel habits.
Other causes of constipation may include:
- Colon cancer
- Diseases of the bowel, such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Mental health disorders
- Nervous system disorders
- Underactive thyroid
- Use of certain medications
Proper dietary and lifestyle management can help in maintaining the normal bowel movements to a great extent. Medical interventions are required only when constipation arises because of some structural or functional change in the gastrointestinal tract.