Constipation is often defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times a week. Other symptoms of constipation include the following:
- Hard stools
- Difficulty or straining when passing stools
- Pain during a bowel movement
If left untreated, chronic constipation may cause hemorrhoids, or swollen veins near your anus or lower rectum that may become painful.
Constipation: What you should know
- Normal bowel movements are different for each person. It’s OK not to have a bowel movement every day.
The following things can contribute to constipation:
- A low-fiber diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Not drinking enough water
- Not going to the bathroom when you have the urge
- You can help prevent or address constipation by adding more fiber to your diet, exercising more and drinking more water.
- While uncomfortable, constipation by itself is not a serious problem. It can be a symptom of many conditions, including colorectal cancer, underactive thyroid and diabetes.
- Even though constipation can be a sign of more serious issues, only a small number of people with constipation have a serious medical condition.
How can I get help for constipation?
Call your primary care doctor if any of the following occur:
- Your symptoms come on suddenly and are accompanied by pain
- You have blood in your stool in addition to constipation
- Your constipation continues for more than two weeks