What is Constipation?

Constipation is the infrequent and difficult passage of stool. The frequency of bowel movements varies among healthy individuals ranging from three bowel movements a day to three a week. Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week.

Though occasional constipation is quite common, some people experience chronic constipation that can interfere with their ability to go about their daily routine.


Signs and symptoms of chronic constipation include:

  • Passing fewer than three stools per week.
  • Having hard lumpy stool.
  • Straining to have a bowel movement.
  • Feeling as though you cannot completely empty the stool from your rectum.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of chronic constipation include:

  • Being an older adult
  • Eating a low fiber diet
  • Getting little or no physical activity
  • Being dehydrate
  • Taking certain medications including opioid pain medications, sedatives or medications to lower blood pressure.


Complications of chronic include:

Hemorrhoids. These are swollen veins in and around the anus which are the result of straining to have a bowel movement.

Anal fissure. This is torn skin in your anus. A hard stool can cause tears in the anus.

Fecal Impaction. This happens when stool cannot be expelled.

Rectal prolapse. Intestine that protrudes from the anus due to straining.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience persistent changes in your bowel habits.