Although bowel movement frequency varies greatly for each person, if more than three days pass without a bowel movement, the contents in the intestines may harden, making it difficult or even painful to pass. Straining during bowel movements or the feeling of incomplete emptying also may be considered constipation.
Constipation is common. In the general population incidence of constipation varies from 2 to 30%.
Constipation is a symptom, not a disease, and can be caused by many factors. The most common are poor diet and lack of exercise. Other causes include:
A variety of medications also can cause constipation, such as:
Each individual may experience symptoms of constipation differently. However, some of the most common symptoms include:
Treatments include changes in dietary habits, laxatives, enemas, biofeedback, and surgery. Because constipation is a symptom, not a disease, effective treatment of constipation may require first determining its cause.
Constipation is easier to prevent than to treat. Maintaining adequate exercise, fluid intake, and a high fiber diet is recommended.
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