An infrequent bout of constipation isn't much cause for concern, but if you're suffering from severe or chronic constipation, it's important to find out why. Board-certified gastroenterologist Oforbuike Ewelukwa, MD, MSc, of Imperial Digestive Health Specialists PLLC in Katy, Texas, can diagnose the cause of your constipation and resolve this uncomfortable problem. Call Dr. Ewelukwa's team today and schedule a consultation or book an appointment online.
Constipation is a common digestive system problem where your stools become hard, dry, and difficult to pass. When they do come out, they might tear the delicate anal tissues. Chronic straining because of constipation is the leading cause of hemorrhoids — painful, swollen veins in the anus.
You could also develop a fecal impaction, where the dry stool forms a mass that's impossible to pass. When this happens, liquid stool above the impaction can trickle out, making it appear that you have diarrhea. If this is happening, you should seek urgent medical attention.
You pass stools less frequently when you have constipation. However, it's generally not helpful to try to define how many bowel movements you should be having, as it can vary from several a day to 3-4 a week and still be normal for you.
The important thing is to recognize when your bowel habits change. In most instances, constipation isn't a serious problem, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. Occasionally it might be due to an underlying condition that requires treatment.
You can get constipation for a variety of reasons. By far the most common reasons include a lack of fiber in your diet, not drinking enough water, or a combination of the two. Other things that can trigger constipation include:
Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can also cause constipation, but they’re just as likely to cause diarrhea.
The Imperial Digestive Health Specialists PLLC team diagnoses the cause of your constipation after a physical exam and discussion of your symptoms, lifestyle, and medical history. They may also perform blood and/or stool tests. If there's any chance a more serious condition is responsible for your constipation, you might need a colonoscopy.
The Imperial Digestive Health Specialists PLLC team creates a treatment plan for your constipation that aims to resolve the underlying cause as well as address the symptoms. Your treatment program might include:
Lifestyle changes are often key to resolving chronic constipation. Your provider can help you make adjustments such as increasing your intake of dietary fiber and water, eating more fruit and vegetables, grains, and whole foods, and cutting down on unhealthy fats and carbohydrates.
You also need to increase your physical activity levels to keep your bowels moving.
Stool softeners and gastrointestinal motility medications can help relieve constipation. If you're experiencing an episode of constipation that's particularly bad, suppositories that you insert into your anus can help break up an impaction. Laxatives should be used with care, as overuse can worsen your constipation.
If you have a condition like diabetes, hypothyroidism, or inflammatory bowel disease, it's important to manage these conditions effectively to reduce your risk of constipation.
To find out what's causing your chronic or recurring constipation, call Imperial Digestive Health Specialists PLLC today or book an appointment online.