What Is Constipation?

Constipation is difficulty having a bowel movement, either because the stool is hard and dry or because it happens infrequently. Constipation has been defined as having a bowel movement less than three times a week.

Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint, affecting four million Americans on a frequent or chronic basis. 

Complications of constipation

Chronic or severe constipation can lead to other conditions, including:

  • Hemorrhoids: Straining to have a bowel movement can cause swollen veins in the rectum. 
  • Anal fissures: Hard stool can tear the skin around the anus and cause bleeding in your rectum.
  • Diverticular disease: The extra pressure from straining to move your bowels makes weak spots in your colon bulge and form pouches, called diverticula. 
  • Rectal prolapse: Straining to move your bowels can cause a small piece of intestinal lining to push out of your anus. 
  • Fecal impaction: Sometimes a hard, dry stool remains stuck in your rectum, causing other stool to back up in the colon. 

Related Resources