Constipation is one of the many problems that doesn’t find enough mention in health discourses, but if left untreated could cause major health implications, leaving you sore and at times leading to a medical emergency. You are generally constipated when the bowel movement occurs less than the usual, but it should become a concern if the infrequency is characterised by less than three movements in a week.
In the short term, constipation will have effects like bloating, abdominal pain, small amounts of blood or whitish mucus in the stool and an urgent urge for a bowel movement, while chronic constipation could lead to the following problems.
Hemorrhoids are varicose veins of the anus and rectum. If you are constipated then there is a pressure from the stool which doesn’t let the outflow of blood from the veins in the anus and rectum, causing them to become abnormally enlarged. In such a state, if you strain to produce a bowel movement, it causes abdominal pressure which distends veins and forces them outside their usual location within the tissues. This may result into internal hemorrhoids, external hemorrhoids or combination of the two. Internal hemorrhoids usually don’t cause pain, but may bleed profusely while external hemorrhoids is known to cause pain, itching and extreme sensitivity.
In case of chronic constipation, there are chances of cracks developing in the skin around the anus, called anal fissures. It happens when the hard stool stretches and abrades the anal sphincter. Most people with fissures complain of pain, itching and small amounts of bright red blood in their stools. In extreme cases, it may become infected forming pus known as an abscess. This may require surgical drainage, and fissure is healed only when constipation resolves.
During chronic constipation, the rectum may lose the ability to shrink to its original size after stool is passed, due to which the loose tissue comes off and bulges through the anus as a small, pink mass or bubble. People suffering from this condition often have leakage of small amounts of stool and mucus. They complain of sensation of inadequate defecation, itching, pain or bleeding. One may have to undergo surgical repair to tackle the problem.
Long-term constipation could lead to one of the major complications known as diverticulosis. It generally happens because of the increased pressure in the bowel that lead to small defects in the muscular wall of the large intestine. The inner coating of the bowel pushes through these defects and forms small pouches that may get infected and cause diverticulitis. It is a serious condition that needs immediate medical intervention. Some of the symptoms include fever, abdominal pain and blood in the stools.
Chronic back pain
During chronic constipation, the accumulated fecal matter causes blocking of the rectum, which in turn puts pressure on pelvic nerves, resulting in back pain.
An abdominal hernia is basically an organ or tissue that protrudes through a weak area in the muscle of the abdominal wall. If any pressure is caused due to constipation in the abdominal or stomach wall, then it could increase the risk for straining in that area of tissue, forming hernia.
Urinary retention and urinary tract infection
Large intestines and the urinary bladder are positioned closer to each other, and accumulation of hard stools in the bowel may exert pressure on the bladder. This pressure can impede the bladder from contractions and it can’t empty completely, and the retention of urine may cause urinary tract infection.