Last Edited: April 10th, 2012

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Constipation is something that most people try to avoid getting and try to avoid talking about. While it is not a popular topic, it is a common ailment that affects millions of Americans every day. Some people attempt to ignore it in the hopes that it will go away naturally. But there are a few reasons why constipation should be monitored and potentially treated by a medical professional.


Most medical journals and medical professionals define mild constipation as having no more than three bowel movements in a seven-day period. If you experience less than three bowel movements in that seven-day period, then that is referred to as severe constipation.

Constipation can build up over time or it can come on suddenly. With gradual constipation, there are methods a person can try to relieve the problem before seeing a doctor. If constipation comes on suddenly, then it is best to get to a doctor immediately.


The common symptoms for constipation include stomach cramps, abdominal pain, nausea, swelling in the abdomen and upper thighs and even vomiting. In the cases where constipation comes on quickly, additional symptoms can include severe abdominal pain that feels as though it is shooting from just below the stomach to the inner thighs.

Another common symptom of constipation is the inability to complete a bowel movement. The person may have the strong need or urge to evacuate the bowels, but she is unable to complete the task without significant pain or, in some cases, not at all.


The slow onset of constipation can come from several factors including eating too many dairy products, too much fiber intake, not drinking enough water, introducing new foods from a new area such as when you are travelling, depression, anxiety or lack of exercise.

If constipation comes on suddenly and painfully, then it could be the result of a tumor, a cyst, an unexpected pregnancy, the early stages of colon cancer or an allergic reaction to new medications. In these cases, the constipation can create crippling pain that needs to be dealt with immediately.

Risk Factors

Anyone can experience constipation, but it is happens most often in women and the elderly. There are daily supplements women can take that will help to prevent constipation and provide for a healthy evacuation of the bowels.


Gradual constipation can be dealt with using over the counter medications. In most cases, these medications require a full eight hours before they will start to work. It is a good idea to drink as much water as possible when trying to relieve constipation as that can help calm some of the pain and make the process of evacuating your bowels much less painful.

If you find that over the counter does not give immediate relief as per the manufacturer's instructions, then you should seek out medical attention immediately.

For severe cases that come on suddenly, you need to seek out emergency medical help as soon as possible. Do not allow severe constipation to go untreated as the symptoms will only get worse and the underlying cause could spread quickly as well.