Constipation means that stools are difficult or painful to pass and less frequent than usual.
With constipation, you may feel a strong urge to have a stool, have discomfort in the anal area, but be unable to pass a stool after straining and pushing for more than 10 minutes.
Going 3 or more days without a stool can be considered constipation, even though this may cause no pain in some people and even be normal for a few.
Some normal people have hard stools daily without any pain. Large or hard stools without the conditions just described are usually normal variations in stools.
Constipation is often due to a diet that does not include enough fiber. Drinking or eating too many milk products can cause constipation for many people. It may also be caused by repeatedly waiting too long to go to the bathroom, not drinking enough liquids, or not getting enough physical exercise.
Changes in the diet usually relieve constipation. After you are better, be sure to stay on a nonconstipating diet so that it doesn't happen again.
Sometimes the trauma to the anal canal during constipation causes an anal fissure (a small tear). If you have an anal fissure, you may see small amounts of bright red blood on the toilet tissue or the stool surface.
If a change in diet doesn't relieve your constipation, take a stool softener with dinner every night for 1 week. Stool softeners (unlike laxatives) are not habit-forming. They work 8 to 12 hours after they are taken. Examples of stool softeners that you can buy at your drugstore without a prescription are MiraLAX, Metamucil, Citrucel (1 tablespoon), or mineral oil (1 tablespoon).
If you have acute rectal pain and need immediate relief, try one or more glycerin suppositories.
Common mistakes in treating constipation
Don't use any enemas without your healthcare provider's advice. These can cause irritation of the anus. Do not use laxatives that contain senna without asking your healthcare provider because they can cause cramps.
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