Chronic constipation is defined by the inability or difficulty to pass stool occurring for 3+ months. Here we explore the symptoms, causes & treatments.
Do You Experience Bowel Problems?
If you are experiencing bowel problems, you are not alone. Bowel problems are more frequent than you may think. In fact, studies show that more than 20% of the population are affected by constipation, while 10% experience bowel leakage. The underlying cause of bowel problems may vary, but the symptoms are the same.
Common Causes of Bowel Problems
Bowel problems can occur due to a number of different reasons. These include:
- Neurogenic bowel disorders (NBD) where the bowel problems are caused by an injury to the nerves
- Functional bowel disorders (FBD) when no underlying causes can be found
- Pelvic floor dysfunction – for example complications after childbirth
- After surgery – for example after surgery for cancer of the colon or rectum you may experience Low Anterior Resection Syndrome (LARS)
- Congenital conditions like Hirschsprung’s disease or anorectal malformations
What is Neurogenic Bowel?
Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction (NBD) is the term used to describe bowel dysfunction due to the disruption of nerve signals. The disruption of nerve signals can cause a slower transit of stool through the bowel. The longer the stools remain in the bowel the more water is absorbed from the stool, which leaves it harder and more difficult to pass. This results in the bowel becoming swollen or enlarged and the frequency of bowel emptying becomes very slow and unpredictable. Once you are able to poo, it can be very painful, and may take hours, with accompanying sensations of incomplete emptying and soiling.
The disruption of the nerves may also disrupt the urge signals, i.e. the sensation of needing to empty the bowel. This means that for some individuals, their bowels spontaneously empty with little or no warning.
Examples of conditions that may be affected by NBD are:
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Traumatic spinal cord injury
- Non-traumatic spinal cord injury such as Spina Bifida
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- After stroke
What is Functional Bowel Disorder?
Bowel disorders without any identified underlying condition are called functional bowel disorders (FBD). Generally, FBD is more difficult to diagnose since every other option must first be excluded as the cause of the bowel problems.
Examples of FBDs are:
- Functional constipation (or idiopathic constipation)
- Functional fecal incontinence
- Slow transit constipation (STC)
Fecal incontinence is a medical term for bowel leakage that refers to the loss of normal control of the bowel, leading to leakage of solid or liquid stool, mucus or gas.
There are several ways to treat bowel dysfunction. These include surgical methods, transanal irrigation and conservative methods - such as lifestyle and diet.
For Healthcare Professionals
Equip yourself and train your colleagues or patients with the aid of tutorials, webinars and downloadables.