Constipation is a symptom itself and not a disease. Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their life, and a poor diet typically is the cause. Some people think they are constipated if they do not have a bowel movement every day. However, normal stool elimination may be three times a day or three times a week, depending on the person.
Characteristics of constipation
Constipation is typically defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. During constipation stools are usually:
When to seek help
Although it may be extremely bothersome, constipation itself usually is not serious. However, irregular or painful bowel movments may signal a serious underlying disorder such as cancer. Constipation can also lead to complications, such as hemorrhoids caused by extreme straining or fissures caused by the hard stool stretching the sphincters. Bleeding, fissures and fecal impactions are all possible complications of untreated constipation. Talk to your family doctor if:
Most constipation is temporary and not serious. Understanding its causes, prevention, and treatment will help most people find relief. But how do doctors know what is causing constipation? To learn more about how doctors diagnose the underlying causes of chronic constipation, read our Diagnosing Constipation section now.
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