If you have constipation that lasts for weeks, you should let your doctor know. You may need to see a doctor who diagnoses and treats gastroenterology disorders to find the cause of your chronic constipation. Here are signs you have chronic constipation, possible complications from constipation, and the treatments and lifestyle changes your gastroenterologist might recommend.
Signs Of Chronic Constipation
Occasional constipation is common, and it usually clears up quickly. If your constipation lasts a few weeks, you could have chronic constipation. Your stools will probably feel hard and difficult to pass. That's because the longer your stools stay in your body, the more time your body has to pull out water. That makes your stools even more dried out and hard. You may feel as if you can't empty your rectum completely.
Consequences Of Chronic Constipation
Constipation can lead to a number of problems. Possible complications include hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, urinary incontinence, and fecal impaction. Straining to pass your stool may cause a lot of pain. Your condition might be bad enough that you feel uncomfortable at work or in social situations.
Treatments For Constipation
Chronic constipation has a number of causes. Medical causes can be medications, a condition that affects the nerves in your rectum, pregnancy, being sedentary, eating a poor diet, a medical condition such as multiple sclerosis or hypothyroidism, and pelvic floor dysfunction.
Your doctor may need to test you for certain medical conditions and review your medications to see if treating your condition or changing medications will improve your constipation.
Your gastroenterologist might prescribe medication that pulls water from your body to make stools softer or that helps your colon move your stools along faster. Your doctor might even recommend over-the-counter fiber supplements and constipation medications.
Pelvic floor therapy might also be recommended to strengthen weak muscles and relax muscle spasms so your rectal muscles work better at eliminating your stools.
Lifestyle Changes For Healthy Bowel Movements
Your gastroenterologist might recommend you start exercising daily to help your bowels move their contents along faster. You might also be instructed to change your diet to include high-fiber foods and to avoid foods associated with constipation, such as cheese. You might also need to start drinking more water to help keep your stools softer.
Your doctor might also recommend changing the way you sit on the toilet. You might find it easier to pass your stools if you elevate your feet so you're in a squatting position. You can buy a step stool that fits next to your toilet to help you achieve the right position. Also, try to use the restroom when you feel the need to rather than hold off because the longer your stool stays in your colon, the harder it could get.