Nearly everyone experiences constipation at some point, and most of the time, it’s not a big deal. Self-treatment and waiting it out for a few days is usually all that’s needed for your body to restore its natural rhythms. But certain symptoms of constipation could indicate a more serious underlying problem. Constipation may not be a topic you feel thoroughly comfortable discussing, but you should see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden onset of constipation
- Stomach or abdominal pain
- Bloody stools
- Unintentional weight loss
- Severe pain with bowel movements
- Constipation that lasts for more than 2 weeks
If an office visit is necessary, your doctor will begin by reviewing your medical history and performing a physical exam. Be prepared to provide details about your recent bathroom visits, including when your constipation started, the consistency of your stools, what makes your constipation better or worse, and any additional symptoms you are experiencing. Most cases of constipation are not related to a serious medical problem and do not warrant further testing. However, your doctor may want to perform a blood test to check for a hormonal imbalance. A colonoscopy or barium test may be ordered if obstruction of the colon is suspected.
Once your doctor has determined the cause of your constipation, you can discuss possibilities for treatments. Your doctor may prescribe a laxative or stool softener to help resolve your constipation, or simply recommend some lifestyle changes which can help with regularity. These may include (Source: WebMD):
- Adding fiber to your diet, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Drinking 1 ½ to 2 quarts of water a day
- Avoiding caffeinated drinks, which can have a dehydrating effect
- Getting plenty of exercise
- Going to the restroom whenever you get the urge
It may be difficult to discuss constipation, but it is far more uncomfortable to leave it untreated. There’s no need to suffer in silence! If your constipation symptoms are cause for concern, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your health care provider can help alleviate your symptoms and rule out any underlying medical conditions, which will give you great peace of mind.