What is constipation?

Constipation means that a person has three or fewer bowel movements in a week. The stool can be hard and dry, and sometimes painful to pass. At one time or another, almost everyone gets constipated. In most cases, it’s short-lasting and is not serious. It's not important to have a bowel movement every day. If bowel habits change, however, check with a doctor.
 

To prevent constipation:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and grains, which are high in fiber
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids
  • Get enough exercise
  • Take time to have a bowel movement when the urge strikes
  • Use laxatives only if a doctor recommends it
  • If taking medications, ask a doctor if they cause constipation


How is constipation diagnosed?

Health care providers diagnose constipation based on a person’s medical history and with the help of a physical exam. He or she may also order certain tests such as anorectal manometry.

Anorectal manometry measures the pressures of the anal sphincter muscles. A small catheter with a small balloon at the end is placed into the anus. Once the balloon is inflated measurements are taken while the patient squeezes and relaxes the sphincter muscles. After the test is complete, a treatment plan can be determined.