Constipation can include difficult, painful bowel movements as well as the passing of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than three times weekly. People suffering from constipation may feel uncomfortable, sluggish and bloated. Almost everyone experiences constipation from time to time, usually related to a low-fiber diet, a lack of water or lack of exercise. In these cases, dietary changes or getting more exercise can rapidly help to relieve the discomfort.
However, constipation can be more intense, especially for pregnant women, elderly adults or people who have just had surgery or childbirth. Some medications can also cause constipation as well, including pain relievers, blood pressure medications, diuretics and antidepressants. Chronic constipation can also be a symptom of more serious disorders, including spinal cord injuries, diabetes, thyroid disease, lupus, diverticulosis or even cancer.
A gastroenterologist can take a medical history and perform physical examinations to determine underlying causes and seek treatment for ongoing constipation.