By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
One of the main symptoms of constipation is difficulty in passing stools. The severity of the condition may vary between individual sufferers.
Normal bowel habits vary from person to person. While some adults normally go to the toilet more than once a day, yet others may go on alternate days or once every three or four days.
Similarly some babies and infants pass stools several times a day, while others pass stools every alternate day or once in three days.
As long as the consistency of the stool is soft and the bowel habits are not altered, it is not termed constipation.
Symptoms of constipation
Difficulty in passing stools – This is one of the main symptoms of constipation. Some patients complain of feeling a hard lump near their anus that makes defecation painful.
Pain and abdominal discomfort – Constipation may be associated with severe abdominal discomfort and bloating. There may be cramping pain as well that occurs over the abdomen or around the anus.
In addition to abdominal cramps there may be severe nausea and sometimes vomiting.
There is a sensation of incomplete evacuation of bowels.
Stools that are passed with difficulty may be hard, abnormally large or abnormally small and pebble like in consistency. Passage of hard stools may cause pain. The stool appears dark in color and is pellet like in most constipated cases. There is accompanying wind and flatus that bloats the abdomen. The stool itself may be foul smelling.
Constipation usually also brings on symptoms of loss of appetite. In children this is more pronounced.
Children with constipation may be fatigued and appear listless. They may also be irritable angry or unhappy due to the abdominal discomfort.
In children with constipation there may be sudden defecation and soiling of clothes as well.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Mar 20, 2013