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Constipation Complications

For those people who suffer from chronic or severe constipation, complications can occur.

Fecal impaction is a serious constipation complication. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Fecal impaction is a serious constipation complication.

Constipation Complications

For those people who suffer from chronic or severe constipation, complications can occur. The complications of constipation range from nagging to serious. A visit to the doctor for a diagnosis and treatment is the best way to avoid the complications of constipation.

Basics of Constipation

Constipation occurs when bowel movements are difficult to expel, when pain occurs during a bowel movement, when bowel movements occur fewer than three times a week or when a bowel movement is incomplete. With constipation, the stools are hard and dry which make them difficult to pass. These symptoms can cause cramping, abdominal pain, bloating and a sensation of having a full colon according to Harvard Medical School.

Rectal Complications of Constipation

Hemorrhoids are a common complication of constipation. Hemorrhoids are inflamed and swollen vascular tissues that form close to the anus. The hemorrhoids can cause itching, pain or burning and are very uncomfortable. Hemorrhoids can also cause localized bleeding at the rectum or anus because of the vascular nature of the tissue. Hemorrhoids worsen when the hardened stools create pressure while attempting to have a bowel movement.

Fissures are small cracks or tears in the skin around the anus. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), these tears happen when the hard stool stretches the skin as it is being expelled from the body. Fissures, like hemorrhoids, can cause bleeding and pain.

A prolapsed rectum occurs when a small amount of the intestinal lining emerges with the stool when attempting a bowel movement and small amounts of mucus can be present. By eliminating the cause of it, such as straining or coughing, a rectal prolapse can be managed. If the rectal prolapse is severe or is a chronic condition, some people may need to have surgery to correct the rectal prolapse.

The Complication of Fecal Impaction

A fecal impaction is the accumulated and hardened stool in the large intestine as a result of constipation. The symptoms of a fecal impaction include no solid stool being passed and liquid stool leaking from the colon. Only liquid can pass, because the colon is impacted and blocked.

A fecal impaction can be a serious complication, especially if it causes an intestinal blockage and remains untreated. According to Harvard Medical School, fecal impaction is most likely to occur with elderly patients, those who are disabled or bedridden and those who experience chronic constipation. Fecal impaction can cause pain or vomiting and may require immediate hospitalization for treatment. If treatment is sought in a timely manner, the doctor may manually remove stool from the rectum and follow with an enema or water irrigation.

Although rare, if left untreated, a fecal impaction can lead to loss of blood supply to the colon, a perforated bowel, systemic infection and even death. Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent further complications from a fecal impaction. Surgery may be required to save the colon or save a life.

Complications from constipation can usually be minimized if constipation is managed. The best treatment for complications from constipation is to alleviate the constipation. For those who experience complications, a doctor can not only diagnose the problem, but will treat it as well. Constipation can be controlled with diet, fluids, activity and medications when necessary, but a trip to the doctor is recommended.

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