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Constipation

Constipation is a common condition in which bowel movements become difficult or do not happen as often as usual. It typically lasts a short time and is not harmful. Unfortunately, some individuals develop chronic (long-lasting) constipation, which may interfere with their quality of life.

Constipation develops when the stool spends too much time in the intestines where water is removed from digested food. Symptoms of constipation can include:

  • Bowel movements that occur less often than three times a week
  • Stools that are hard and dry
  • Straining, discomfort or pain during bowel movements
  • Bloating
  • A feeling that there is more stool even after a bowel movement
  • Sensation of anorectal blockage
  • Need for manual-assistance (finger maneuvers or enemas) to remove stool

Complications of constipation can include hemorrhoids (swollen veins in the anus), anal fissures (torn skin), fecal impaction (stool blocking the digestive tract) and pelvic organ prolapse (dropping of organs like the rectum or small bowel).

Constipation can affect anyone, but it occurs more often in women and people over age 65. It is also common during pregnancy.

Causes of constipation include:

  • A diet with too little fiber, too few fluids or too much of certain foods, including wheat and dairy products
  • Certain medicines, including opioid painkillers and iron supplements
  • Metabolic disorders, including hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or elevated blood calcium levels        
  • Irritable bowel syndrome, which causes abdominal bloating or discomfort, but no physical damage or signs of disease

Pelvic floor dysfunction is also a factor in many cases of chronic constipation. This means that the muscles within the pelvis do not coordinate properly. Occurring in up to one-fourth of patients with constipation, dyssynergic defecation is a form of pelvic floor dysfunction where the anal sphincter muscles do not relax properly.

The key to successfully treating constipation is finding its cause. We provide the most comprehensive evaluation and treatment services in the state for constipation.

Changes to diet and lifestyle are often enough to bring relief from constipation and extensive testing is not necessary for most people. If symptoms are more severe, our expertise and the advanced technology of our Gastrointestinal Motility Diagnostic Laboratory allow us to diagnose and treat even the most refractory cases of chronic constipation.

Our gastroenterologists deliver the most comprehensive care possible by working with a variety of other specialists, such as urogynecologists, radiologists, physical therapists and dietitians. We partner with you to create a personalized treatment plan based on your needs, preferences and goals.

Our close relationship with the Indiana University School of Medicine means you benefit from the latest tools and techniques for diagnosing and treating constipation. We also help train new generations of physicians to care for patients with constipation and other gastrointestinal conditions.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Constipation Treatment Information

Evaluation of constipation starts with a thorough physical exam and a discussion of your medical history. Tests to find the cause of constipation include:

Treatment options include:


Constipation Locations & Physicians

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Constipation Support Services

Learn more about constipation at these websites: