Constipation is a condition that affects the people of all ages and both genders, although it seems to be more common in elderly people and in women.
Constipation means that the bowel movement is irregular or missing for a certain period of time, involving more strain than normally. A person may struggle to empty their bowels completely and the stool may be hard, lumpy, very big or very small.
This complication occurs to almost everyone at some point in life and for most it is only short-term and with no effects to the health or further complications.
Chronic constipation is another issue. It causes more pain and discomfort and possibly leads to complications, like hemorrhoids, faecal impaction or incontinence.
Older people are more prone to constipation, probably due to their dietary habits, lack of exercise and medications. It is also frequent during pregnancy, and it is estimated that about 40 percent of pregnant women suffer from it.
The treatment for constipation is usually effective although it may take a longer period of time to restore completely the regular pattern of bowel movements. In most cases constipation passes without complications, but people who have chronic constipation are more at risk.
One of the possible complications of constipation are hemorrhoids. Strain that is usually required for passing a bowel movement during constipation can be harmful for the anal area and cause swelling of blood vessels known as piles or hemorrhoids.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids are itching, pain, swelling and bleeding.
Another possible complication is fecal impaction, or accumulation of hard, dried stool inside the rectum. Once this complication occurs, it is most likely that the stool will not be able to pass naturally.
Fecal impaction worsens the constipation and possibly leads to other complications, like swelling, bleeding and loss of sensation in the anus, faecal incontinence and rectal prolapse (a part of the lower intestine protrudes from the anus).
Fecal incontinence means that the person is not able to withhold the stool, which leaks out uncontrollably in form of fluid or soft stool. Incontinence can have significant psychological effects, especially for the children. It is a very embarrassing and uncomfortable condition that may result in withdrawal, alienation of a child from his peers, anxiety and loneliness.
If a child is suffering from fecal incontinence, it is very important that he or she has all the support of family and school staff. This problem can be overcome and it does not have to leave emotional scars.