What is constipation?

Constipation can mean different things to different people. It generally refers to either difficulty readily emptying the bowel or infrequent bowel motions  (less than 3 times per week). The symptoms that may be experienced include excessive straining during bowel motions, feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation, or passing hard or lumpy stools.


What causes constipation?

Constipation is a common symptom. The cause can be functional in which no underlying aetiology is found and this can often be fixed with adequate fibre and fluid intake. There are many other conditions which can lead to constipation including low thyroid activity, pelvic floor weakness or dysfunction, certain drugs, neurological disorders and pregnancy.

Do I need to see a gastroenterologist regarding my constipation?

If you experience any of the following it is recommended you visit a gastroenterologist:

  • Persistent change in bowel habit
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Family history of bowel cancer
  • Significant unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained abdominal pain


What further investigations might be needed?

If constipation is unexplained by dietary changes then further testing may involve blood tests, abdominal X ray, colonoscopy and pelvic floor assessment.

What treatment is available?

Often simple lifestyle changes and the addition of fibre (either dietary or via fibre supplements) will be sufficient. There are also many laxative options available, but if persistently required, a specialist opinion should be sought.