Though stool elimination depends on person to person, having a bowel movement three times a day or three times a week is considered normal. If your bowel movements result in passage of small amounts of dry and hard stool less than three times a week, you may be constipated.
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal problem in which a person has infrequent bowel movements. This digestive disorder can cause hard feces that are painful and difficult to expel. It occurs as the colon absorbs excess water from the food in the colon. When the food passes too slowly through the colon, it absorbs too much water from it which may cause hard and dry stool.
Most people experience hard stool occasionally. Over 4 million people in the United States have frequent constipation. In this post, we will explain the common causes and symptoms of constipation as well as discuss the best diagnosis and treatment options by primary care doctors.
Symptoms of Hard Stool
Each person may experience symptoms differently. However, the most severe symptoms of constipation and hard stool are blood in the stool or rectal bleeding. If a person continues bleeding, he/she must consult primary care physicians. Other constipation and hard stool symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling bloated or uncomfortable
- Straining to have a bowel movement
- Losing appetite
- Feeling lethargic
- Pain on passing stool
- Unable to pass an entire bowel movement
- Difficulty passing gas
What Causes Constipation?
A stool typically contains waste products and undigested food material that combines with water to pass. As you know that constipation is the result of colon absorbing excess water. If muscles in the colon contract slowly, it causes a slow movement of stool and loses more water.
Some of the most common causes of hard stool include:
Medications – Sometimes constipation can be caused by the medications you take. Certain medications that may slow down digestion may include some pain relievers and antidepressants like narcotic pain drugs, aluminum, and calcium-containing antacids, anticonvulsants, iron supplements, diuretics, etc.
Diet & Lifestyle – If you consume a good quality of fiber in your diet, you are less likely to have constipation. Foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables promote bowel movements. Dehydration and a high intake of sugary foods may also result in the hard stool. Some lifestyle-related causes are changing medications, lack of physical activities & traveling.
Medical Conditions – A wide range of medical conditions can cause hard stool including Parkinson’s disease, pregnancy, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, intestinal tumors, aging, spinal cord injuries, celiac disease, and cancer.
How is Constipation Diagnosed?
When diagnosing constipation, your primary care doctor will take into account your age as well as the duration and severity of the problem. The diagnosing procedures and tests may include:
Medical History – To understand the causes of hard stool, your doctor will ask for descriptions including frequency of bowel movement, weight loss, duration of symptoms, blood in the stool, and other significant information.
Physical Examination – Your primary physician may conduct a digital rectal examination to help identify tenderness, amount and caliber of stool, enlargement of the rectum, obstruction, and blood. He/she may insert a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to analyze the tone of the muscle closing off the anus.
Colonoscopy – It helps your doctor examine the large intestine and check for ulcers, bleeding, inflamed tissues and abnormal growths. A long, flexible tube is inserted through the rectum up into the colon to view its lining, remove tissues, and possibly treat some issues.
Colorectal Transit Study – The patient is asked to consume capsules with small markers that are visible on x-ray to help monitor the movement of the markers. It will help identify the movement of food through the colon.
Sigmoidoscopy – A short, lighted and flexible tube is inserted into the large intestine to examine the area and help determine the causes of constipation, bleeding, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Barium Enema – Also known as a lower gastrointestinal series, this test is used to diagnose the large intestine, rectum, and the lower part of the small intestine by coating a fluid called barium inside the organs for getting an x-ray.
Hard Stool & Constipation Treatments
Your primary doctor will recommend a specific treatment based on certain factors including age, medical history and overall health, the severity of the condition, and your tolerance for certain treatment procedures. Constipation is often relieved itself with certain minor lifestyle changes.
However, some effective methods to treat recurring constipation and hard stool include laxative medications, dietary changes, stool softeners, intake of excess water, supplements, osmotic agents, enemas, and bulk-forming agents.
Infrequent hard stools can be distracting and painful. If the symptoms of your constipation persist, you must visit Artisans of Medicine to get the best consultation with the top primary care doctors in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, NYC. Contact us right away!