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Constipation

The inability to have a bowel movement

Constipation occurs when bowel movements vary from whatever is “normal,” generally if more than three days pass between bowel movements or if there is pain or difficulty passing a hard stool. Most people have occasional periods of constipation but it also may indicate a more serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Check with a doctor about any significant or prolonged changes in bowel habits.

Symptoms

Infrequent or difficult bowel movements.

Diagnosis

To determine if constipation is a symptom of an underlying condition, tests may include routine blood, urine and stool tests; abdominal X-rays; or examinations such as a colonscopy.

Treatment

Laxatives may be beneficial for occasional instances of constipation, but prevention is the best course of action, by eating a balanced diet including adequate fiber found in whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables. Drink plenty of fluids, and don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.