Dr. Ernest Levister
How do you know whether you have occasional or chronic constipation?
Everyone wants to be regular. But the definition of regular is different for everyone. For some, it's several times a day. For others, it could be several times a week. If you are having fewer than three bowel movements a week, that's a sign you may have constipation. But is it occasional or chronic?
If the symptoms of your constipation are sudden or last for a short time, it may be occasional constipation. If the symptoms keep coming back and seem to last for a long time, it may be chronic constipation. If you describe your symptoms as abdominal pain or cramping, bloating, gas, mucus in the stool associated with your constipation, you could be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation (IBSC). You should share all your symptoms with your doctor.
IBSC is defined as belly pain (abdominal pain) associated with constipation. The symptoms of IBSC are defined as long-lasting and keep coming back. Those suffering from IBSC also have hard or lumpy stools at least 25% of the time, and loose or watery stools less than 25% of the time.
When to see a doctor? Although as many as 1 in 5 American adults have signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, less than 1 in 5 who have symptoms seek medical help. Yet it's important to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or if you have any other signs or symptoms of IBS because these may indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer.
Symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition include:
• Rectal bleeding
• Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night
• Weight loss
Your doctor may be able to help you find ways to relieve symptoms as well as rule out colon conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. Your doctor can also help you avoid possible complications from problems such as chronic diarrhea.