The signs of an impacted bowel, or fecal impaction, include abdominal pain, discomfort, vomiting, nausea, headache and unexplained weight loss, according to Healthline. More severe symptoms of the condition include dehydration, rapid heart rate, fever and hyperventilation.
The most common causes of fecal impaction are chronic constipation and laxative abuse, as MedlinePlus explains. Constipation occurs when a person does not pass stools as often as they normally do, causing stools to harden, dry and become more difficult to pass. The prolonged use of laxatives to treat constipation can exacerbate the problem because the body becomes dependent on them. Also, certain prescription drugs, such as narcotic pain medicines, can also slow the movement of fecal matter through the bowels.
A doctor or medical professional diagnoses fecal impaction upon examination of the patient's rectum, according to Baylor Scott & White Health. Upon diagnosis, treatment options include suppositories, enemas, manual removal and oral medications. In rare instances, surgical removal of the impaction may be necessary if the blockage has damaged the colon.
To prevent fecal impaction, individuals should develop healthy bowel habits at home, as Baylor Scott & White Health suggests. They should maintain a high fiber diet that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Other prevention methods include regular exercise and avoiding dehydration by consuming plenty of fluids. Individuals should also allow themselves enough time to have a bowel movement. If these lifestyle changes don't help, they should seek professional medical assistance.