September 2, 2015

home > symptom checker >constipation symptoms

Constipation

MedicineNet - Constipation

Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index

Medical Author:

Related
Symptoms & Signs

Constipation means different things to different people. For many people, it simply means infrequent stools. For others, however, constipation means hard stools, difficulty passing stools (straining), or a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement. The cause of each of these types of constipation probably is different, and the approach to each should be tailored to the specific type of constipation. Constipation can also alternate with diarrhea. This pattern is more commonly considered as part of the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). At the extreme end of the constipation spectrum is fecal impaction, a condition in which stool hardens in the rectum and prevents the passage of any stool.

The number of bowel movements generally decreases with age. Ninety-five percent of adults have bowel movements between three and 21 times per week, and this would be considered normal. The most common pattern is one bowel movement a day, but this pattern is seen in less than 50% of people. Moreover, most people are irregular and do not have bowel movements every day or the same number of bowel movements each day. Medically speaking, constipation usually is defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week. Severe constipation is defined as less than one bowel movement per week.

Common causes of constipation include pain medications (especially narcotics), dehydration, depression, stroke, diseases of the nervous system, diseases of the abdomen, colon cancer, travel, Hirschsprung's disease, and scleroderma.

Complications of constipation include hard stools, anal fissure, anal tears, rectal bleeding, hemorrhoids, abdominal discomfort, abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, bloating, and aggravation of hernias.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/19/2015

Health concern on your mind? Visit the Symptom Checker.

REFERENCE:

Longo, D.L., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.

Main Article on Constipation
  • Constipation Constipation is defined medically as fewer than three stools per week and severe constipation as less than one stool per week....learn more »
Causes of Constipation
    • Abdominal Adhesions (Scar Tissue) Abdominal adhesions (scar tissue) bands of scar tissue that form between abdominal organs and tissues. Symptoms of abdominal...learn more »
      In This Article
      Abdominal Adhesions (Scar Tissue) Article
      • Abdominal adhesions facts*
      • What are abdominal adhesions?
      • What causes abdominal adhesions?
      • How can abdominal adhesions cause intestinal obstruction?
      • How can abdominal adhesions cause female infertility?
      • What are the symptoms of abdominal adhesions?
      • What are the symptoms of an intestinal obstruction?
      • How are abdominal adhesions and intestinal obstructions diagnosed?
      • How are abdominal adhesions and intestinal obstructions treated?
      • Can abdominal adhesions be prevented?
    • Anal Fissure An anal fissure is a small tear or cut in the skin lining of the anus. Pain and/or rectal bleeding during bowel movements are...learn more »
      In This Article
      Anal Fissure Article
      • Anal fissures facts
      • What are anal fissures?
      • What causes anal fissures?
      • What are the symptoms of anal fissures?
      • How are anal fissures diagnosed and evaluated?
      • What is the treatment for anal fissures?
      • General treatment and home remedies for anal fissures
      • Prescription medications for anal fissures
      • Surgical treatment for anal fissures
      • Personal observation
    • Cancer Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Cancer Article
      • Cancer facts
      • What is cancer?
      • What causes cancer?
      • What are cancer symptoms and signs?
      • What are the different types of cancer?
      • How is cancer diagnosed?
      • How is cancer staging determined?
      • What is the treatment for cancer?
      • What is the prognosis for cancer?
      • Can cancer be prevented?
      • Where can people find more information about cancer?
    • Chagas Disease Chagas disease is an infection caused by the T. cruzi parasite. Symptoms of Chagas disease include rash, swollen lymph nodes,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Chagas Disease Article
      • Chagas disease (kissing bug disease) facts
      • What is Chagas disease?
      • What is the history of Chagas disease?
      • What causes Chagas disease?
      • What are the risk factors for Chagas disease?
      • What are symptoms and signs of Chagas disease?
      • How is Chagas disease diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for Chagas disease?
      • Can transmission of Chagas disease be prevented with a vaccine?
      • What is the prognosis for Chagas disease?
      • What are the complications of Chagas disease?
      • What research is being done for Chagas disease?
    • Colon Cancer Colon cancer is a malignancy that arises from the inner lining of the colon. Most, if not all, of these cancers develop from...learn more »
      In This Article
      Colon Cancer Article
      • Colon cancer facts
      • What is cancer?
      • What is cancer of the colon and rectum?
      • What are the causes of colon cancer?
      • What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
      • What tests can be done to detect colon cancer?
      • How can colon cancer be prevented?
      • What are the treatments and survival for colon cancer?
      • What is the follow-up care for colon cancer?
      • What does the future hold for patients with colorectal cancer?
    • Depression Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one...learn more »
      In This Article
      Depression Article
      • Depression facts
      • What is a depressive disorder?
      • What are myths about depression?
      • What are the types of depression, and what are depression symptoms and signs?
      • Depression symptoms and signs in men
      • Depression symptoms and signs in women
      • Depression symptoms and signs in teenagers
      • Depression symptoms and signs in children
      • What are the causes and risk factors for depression?
      • Postpartum depression
      • How is depression diagnosed?
      • What treatments are available for depression?
      • What is the general approach to treating depression?
      • What about sexual dysfunction related to antidepressants?
      • What about discontinuing antidepressants?
      • What are complications of depression?
      • What is the prognosis for depression?
      • How can depression be prevented?
      • What about self-help and home remedies for depression?
      • How can someone help a person who is depressed?
      • Where can one seek help for depression?
      • What is in the future for depression?
      • Where can people find more information about depression?
    • Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are...learn more »
      In This Article
      Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) Article
      • Diabetes facts
      • What is diabetes?
      • What is the impact of diabetes?
      • What causes diabetes?
      • What are the different types of diabetes?
      • Type 1 diabetes
      • Type 2 diabetes
      • Other types of diabetes
      • What are diabetes symptoms?
      • How is diabetes diagnosed?
      • Why is blood sugar checked at home?
      • What are the acute complications of diabetes?
      • What are the chronic complications of diabetes?
      • What can be done to slow diabetes complications?
    • Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis, Diverticular Disease) Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticuli in the colon rupture. The rupture results in infection in the tissues that...learn more »
      In This Article
      Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis, Diverticular Disease) Article
      • Diverticulosis and diverticulitis facts
      • What is diverticulosis?
      • What is diverticulitis?
      • What causes diverticula and how do diverticula form?
      • What are diverticulitis symptoms?
      • Is there a special diet or digestive supplement that can treat or prevent diverticulitis symptoms?
      • What are the more serious complications of diverticulitis?
      • How are the diagnosis of diverticulitis and diverticulosis made?
      • What is the treatment for diverticulitis and diverticulosis?
      • Medical treatment of diverticulitis and diverticulosis
      • Surgical treatment for diverticulitis
    • Encopresis Encopresis is a type of elimination disorder in which bowel movements are passed into places other than the toilet. Children with...learn more »
      In This Article
      Encopresis Article
      • Elimination disorders in children facts
      • What are elimination disorders in children?
      • What are the risk factors and causes of constipation and encopresis?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of constipation?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of encopresis?
      • How are elimination disorders diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for elimination disorders in children?
      • Can elimination disorders in children be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis for children with elimination disorders?
    • Hirschsprung's Disease Hirschsprung's disease (Hirschsprung), is a disease of the nerve cells of of the large intestine. The primary symptom of...learn more »
      In This Article
      Hirschsprung's Disease Article
      • What is Hirschsprung's disease?
      • What are the large intestine, colon, rectum, and anus?
      • Why does Hirschsprung's disease cause constipation?
      • What causes Hirschsprung's disease?
      • What are the symptoms of Hirschsprung's disease?
      • How is Hirschsprung's disease treated?
      • What will my child's life be like after surgery?
      • If I have more children, will they also have Hirschsprung's disease?
      • Hirschsprung's Disease At A Glance
    • Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is any state in which thyroid hormone production is below normal. Normally, the rate of thyroid hormone...learn more »
      In This Article
      Hypothyroidism Article
      • Hypothyroidism facts
      • What is hypothyroidism?
      • What are thyroid hormones?
      • Thyroid hormone regulation- the chain of command
      • What causes hypothyroidism?
      • What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
      • How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
      • How is hypothyroidism treated?
      • What is subclinical hypothyroidism?
      • What's best for you?
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a GI (gastrointestinal disorder) with symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, increased flatus,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Article
      • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) facts
      • What causes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
      • What are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and signs?
      • How is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnosed?
      • What are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treatments?
      • IBS medications
      • Is there an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diet?
      • What lifestyle changes may help IBS symptoms?
      • Is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) related to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)?
      • What is the prognosis for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
    • Jet Lag Jet lag (desynchonosis) is a temporary disorder that results from travel across time zones. Symptoms include anxiety,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Jet Lag Article
      • What is jet lag?
      • What are other symptoms and signs of jet lag?
      • What is a time zone?
      • What causes jet lag?
      • How does the body keep time?
      • What is the role of melatonin in jet lag?
      • Does the direction of travel matter?
      • Do the symptoms of jet lag vary in intensity?
      • What are risk factors for jet lag?
      • How long does jet lag last?
      • Should people take melatonin for jet lag?
      • Are there any remedies for jet lag? Is it possible to prevent jet lag?
    • Migraine Headache Migraine headaches are severe headaches that are accompanies to sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells. They are often...learn more »
      In This Article
      Migraine Headache Article
      • Migraine headache facts
      • What is a migraine?
      • What are migraine triggers?
      • What causes migraines?
      • What are the risk factors for migraine?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of migraines?
      • How are migraines diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for migraines?
      • Migraine medications
      • What self-care treatment and lifestyle changes work for migraines?
      • How are migraines managed during pregnancy?
      • How are migraines managed in children?
      • What is the prognosis for migraines?
      • Can migraines be prevented?
    • Multiple Myeloma Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that develops in plasma cells, the white blood cells that make antibodies. Symptoms include...learn more »
      In This Article
      Multiple Myeloma Article
      • What is multiple myeloma?
      • What causes multiple myeloma?
      • What are risk factors for multiple myeloma?
      • What are multiple myeloma symptoms and signs?
      • How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?
      • What are the stages of multiple myeloma?
      • What is the treatment for multiple myeloma?
      • What is the prognosis for multiple myeloma?
      • What support systems are available for multiple myeloma?
    • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Multiple sclerosis or MS is an autoimmune disorder in which brain and spinal cord nerve cells become demyelinated. This damage...learn more »
    • Ovarian Cancer There are many types of ovarian cancer, epithelial carcinoma is the most common. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer...learn more »
      In This Article
      Ovarian Cancer Article
      • What is ovarian cancer?
      • Epithelial ovarian cancer
      • Borderline ovarian tumors
      • Germ cell ovarian cancers
      • Stromal ovarian cancers
      • What are ovarian cancer statistics?
      • What are ovarian cancer risk factors?
      • What are ovarian cancer symptoms and signs?
      • How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
      • How is ovarian cancer staging determined?
      • What is the treatment for ovarian cancer?
      • What is the survival rate and prognosis of ovarian cancer?
      • Can ovarian cancer be prevented?
    • Ovarian Cysts Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled, sac-like structures within an ovary. Causes of ovarian cysts are numerous. Symptoms of an ovarian...learn more »
      In This Article
      Ovarian Cysts Article
      • Ovarian cysts facts
      • What is the ovary and what are ovarian cysts?
      • What causes ovarian cysts?
      • What symptoms are caused by ovarian cysts?
      • How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?
      • How can the physician decide if an ovarian cyst is dangerous?
      • How are ovarian cysts treated?
      • What are the risks of ovarian cysts during pregnancy?
    • Parkinson's Disease Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive neurologic disease characterized by a fixed inexpressive face, a tremor at rest,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Parkinson's Disease Article
      • Parkinson's disease facts
      • What is Parkinson's disease?
      • What causes Parkinson's disease?
      • What genes are linked to Parkinson's disease?
      • Who is at risk for Parkinson's disease?
      • What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease?
      • What other conditions resemble Parkinson's disease?
      • How is Parkinson's disease diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for Parkinson's disease?
      • How can people learn to cope with Parkinson's disease?
      • Can Parkinson's disease be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis of Parkinson's disease?
    • Pregnancy (Week By Week, Trimesters) There are many symptoms involved in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy. The first early pregnancy symptom is typically...learn more »
      In This Article
      Pregnancy (Week By Week, Trimesters) Article
      • Pregnancy facts*
      • Introduction
      • What is the first trimester (week 1-week 12)?
      • What is the second trimester (week 13-week 28)?
      • What is the third trimester (week 29-week 40)?
      • How will my baby develop week by week?
      • What are the changes that happen to a woman's body during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimester of her pregnancy?
      • Body aches
      • Breast changes
      • Constipation
      • Dizziness
      • Fatigue, sleep problems
      • Heartburn and indigestion
      • Hemorrhoids during pregnancy
      • Itching
      • Leg cramps
      • Morning sickness
      • Nasal problems
      • Numb or tingling hands
      • Stretch marks, skin changes
      • Swelling
      • Urinary frequency and leaking
      • Varicose veins
    • Scleroderma Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. It is characterized by the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) in...learn more »
      In This Article
      Scleroderma Article
      • Scleroderma facts
      • What is scleroderma?
      • What causes scleroderma?
      • What are risk factors for developing scleroderma?
      • How is scleroderma classified?
      • What are scleroderma symptoms and signs?
      • How is scleroderma diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for scleroderma?
      • What is the prognosis (outlook) for patients with scleroderma?
      • Can scleroderma be prevented?
    • Top 12 Foods for Constipation Relief Constipation is a common problem, and almost everyone has been constipated at one time or another. There are foods that can help...learn more »
      In This Article
      Top 12 Foods for Constipation Relief Article
      • What is constipation?
      • 1. Beans
      • 2. Kiwi
      • 3. Sweet potatoes
      • 4. Popcorn
      • 5. Nuts and seeds
      • 6. Whole grain bread
      • 7. Pears, plums, and apples
      • 8. Berries
      • 9. Flaxseed
      • 10. Broccoli
      • 11. Dried fruit
      • 12. Prunes
    • Typhoid Fever Typhoid fever is an illness caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria. The illness is contracted by ingesting the bacteria in...learn more »
      In This Article
      Typhoid Fever Article
      • Typhoid fever facts
      • What is typhoid fever? What is the history of typhoid fever?
      • How do patients get typhoid fever?
      • How do the bacteria cause disease, and how is it diagnosed?
      • What are the symptoms of typhoid fever?
      • What is the treatment for typhoid fever, and what is the prognosis?
      • Can typhoid fever be prevented?
Other Causes of Constipation
  • Hormone Changes of Menstrual Period
  • Low-Fiber Diet
  • Medications (Both Prescription and Nonprescription)
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
  • Spinal Cord Injury
Examples of Medications for Constipation
  • Over-the-Counter Products
  • tegaserod, Zelnorm


Symptoms & Signs A-Z List



Women's Health

Find out what women really need.