Constipation occurs when stool moves slowly through the large intestine. People suffering from constipation experience painful bowel movements. Plus, they feel bloated, sluggish and uncomfortable. Some of the most common symptoms of constipation include abdominal bloating or pain, decreased appetite, lethargy and passing hard, dry stools.
Symptoms and Complications of Constipation
Severe constipation can lead to serious complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal prolapse and fecal impaction. Let’s study these complications in detail.
Bowel movement straining can cause hemorrhoids that can further lead to rectal bleeding. There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal hemorrhoids and external hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids are located at the top of the canal while external hemorrhoids are located at the lower end of the anal canal near the anus. Hemorrhoids can cause problems when hemorrhoidal cushions become enlarged. Hemorrhoidal cushions are composed of supporting tissues and blood vessels. Enlarged internal hemorrhoids cause gradual increase in size of supporting tissues and cause blood vessels to swell. Hemorrhoids can be treated with ice packs, warm tub baths and by applying a cream to the affected area.
Like hemorrhoids, anal fissures lead to rectal bleeding. Anal fissures cause pain during bowel movements. An anal fissure is a cut in the wall of the anus, which is caused by hard stools. Anal fissures can also occur due to Crohn’s disease, viral infections, tuberculosis, anal cancer and leukemia. People suffering from constipation may also experience discomfort when urinating. Sometimes bleeding or itching occurs due to the discharge of pus from the fissure. Anal fissures are treated by surgically removing the skin in the affected area.
Rectal prolapse occurs when the tissue that lines the rectum sticks through the anal opening. This is caused due to long-term constipation. Besides constipation, generalized pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse, neurological problems such as spinal cord disease or spinal cord transection and urinary incontinence can also cause rectal prolapse. To treat rectal prolapse successfully, straining or coughing needs to be eliminated. However, in case of severe prolapse, surgery is required to repair the prolapsed lining.
A fecal impaction is a large lump of dry and hard stool. Constipation can disrupt the normal function of the colon by packing the intestine and rectum very tightly. This condition is most common in adults and children. A fecal impaction is treated by removing the impacted stool. Mineral oil can be used to soften the impaction. This condition is most common in people who are suffering from constipation for a very long time or people who have been using laxatives. Symptoms of fecal impaction include abdominal cramping, rectal bleeding, loss of bladder control, lower back pain and straining when trying to pass stools.
When to Seek Medical Attention
A person suffering from constipation should seek immediate medical attention if he or she experiences intensive abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, rectal pain, blood in stool and irregular bowel movements.
Also, people suffering from irregular bowel movements may experience lack of energy, loss of appetite, feeling unwell, irritability and unhappiness.