When Is It Time To See A Doctor For Constipation?

Struggling with constipation? Do you eat enough fiber, yet still can't go? Then it might be time to see a doctor. In some cases, constipation can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as diabetes or bowel obstruction, warns the National Institute on Aging. A sedentary lifestyle and certain medications, including painkillers, antacids, and antidepressants, may cause this problem, too. Long-term constipation can lead to life-threatening complications, such as fecal impaction and necrosis, or tissue death, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

This condition poses challenges for patients and medical professionals alike. If you go to the doctor and say you're constipated, they'll likely tell you to drink more water and fill up on fiber. Constipation is fairly common, affecting 16 out of 100 adults, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Another problem is that constipation may be a symptom of thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, or other ailments, notes Baptist Health South Florida. In such cases, early diagnosis can make all the difference. The longer you wait to see a doctor, the higher the risk of complications. 

When is constipation an emergency?

Constipation is a digestive condition characterized by fewer than three bowel movements per week, explains the Mayo Clinic. Some people also have a feeling of incomplete evacuation and other symptoms such as bloating and hard, dry stools.

"When I ask patients what constipation means to them, they may focus on pain, exhausting efforts to have a bowel movement, irregular or unpredictable bowels, or a sense of small or incomplete bowel movements," osteopathic gastroenterologist Nathan Landesman told Parade.

These symptoms often subside on their own, but there are cases in which constipation can become an emergency. For example, you should go to the emergency room if you've gone a long time without defecating and are also experiencing nausea, fever, chest pain, or dizziness. Constipation accompanied by fainting, change of mental state, inability to pass gas, severe vomiting or abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, or rectal bleeding requires medical attention, too, according to Parade. Blood, for instance, can indicate hemorrhoids, but could also be a sign of colorectal cancer, warns the Cleveland Clinic.

Any persistent changes in bowel habits warrant a visit to the doctor, says gastroenterologist Radhika Aggarwal, via Henry Ford Health. "Look for things like a change in your bowel habits, especially if associated with abdominal pain, blood in the stool, or changes in appetite or weight loss, which could be signs of something more serious." More specifically, Cleveland Clinic recommends consulting your doctor if your constipation lasts longer than a week.