How Many Days Does Constipation Last?
If a person is constipated it means they are having infrequent bowel movements (less than 3 a week) or are having difficulty passing stools (this is often because the stools are hard and dry). For most people constipation is a temporary occurrence that lasts only a few days. However, there are some people with chronic constipation who may experience symptoms for months or even years.
How will I know if I am constipated?
Symptoms of constipation include having at least two of the following for at least 3 of the past 6 months:
- Pass fewer than 3 stools a week.
- Experience hard stools.
- Strain excessively during bowel movements.
- Experience a sense of rectal blockage.
- Have a feeling of incomplete evacuation after having a bowel movement (meaning it doesn’t feel like you got it all out!)
- Need to use manual maneuvers to have a bowel movement, such as finger evacuation or manipulation of your lower abdomen.
Do I need to see a doctor?
Most people do not need to see a doctor when constipated – by drinking more water, eating more high-fiber foods, and getting more exercise people can usually fix the problem on their own. But since chronic constipation may lead to complications, or can be a sign of an underlying medical problem, definitely call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- If your symptoms are severe or last longer than three weeks.
- Bowel movements occur more than 3 days apart despite corrective changes in diet and exercise.
- Intense abdominal pain.
- Blood in your stool.
- Constipation that alternates with diarrhea.
- Rectal pain.
- Thin, pencil-like stools.
- Unexplained weight loss.
Your doctor will recommend the best treatment options for you depending on what is causing your constipation.
How can I prevent becoming constipated?
There are definitely preventative measures that can be taken to cut down on constipation:
- Eat a high-fiber diet (fruits, vegetables, beans, whole-grains).
- Limit low-fiber foods (foods high in fat and sugar, such as ice cream, cheese and processed foods).
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water, and limit caffeine.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don’t ignore your body’s signals that you need to go to the bathroom.
- Ask your doctor if fiber supplements (like Metamucil and Citrucel) would be appropriate for you.
- Check with your doctor before using any kind of laxatives and definitely don’t use laxatives on a regular basis.
If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.