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What is chronic constipation?

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Quick Answer

Chronic constipation is the lasting, infrequent or difficult passage of bowels, states Mayo Clinic. A person who has fewer than three bowel movements in a week has chronic constipation. The condition may cause straining when having a bowel movement and difficulty performing daily tasks. Treatment focuses on the underlying condition.

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Full Answer

Causes of chronic constipation include bowel blockage, bowel stricture, cancer of the colon, rectal cancer and anal fissure, as Mayo Clinic states. Weakened pelvic muscles and difficulty relaxing pelvic muscles when evacuating bowel movements may lead to the problem as well. Other causes include neurological problems, such as Parkinson's disease, stroke and autonomic neuropathy, and conditions that interfere with the balance of hormones in the body, including pregnancy and diabetes.

Signs and symptoms include passing formed or hard stools, perceived incomplete evacuation of bowels, and straining to pass bowels that persist for a prolonged period, according to Mayo Clinic. A lasting sensation of an obstruction in the rectum may also indicate that a person has chronic constipation. Diagnostic procedures such as anorectal manometry, sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy help to examine the anal sphincter muscle, colon and rectum. X-rays may also aid in providing diagnosis.

Staying active, going to the toilet when feeling the urge, increasing the amount of fiber in the diet and undergoing biofeedback training may help reverse the problem, explains Mayo Clinic. Taking laxatives, such as stool softeners, fiber supplements and stimulants, may help as well.

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