Latest Treatments for Constipation
Constipation can have different meanings to different people. To some people it means infrequent stools and to others it means having difficulty while passing stools. This results in incomplete emptying of bowels causing further inconvenience and irritation in the bowels. Often constipation alternates with diarrhea as a part of irritable bowel system (IBS). In extreme cases fecal impaction occurs, a painful condition in which the stool hardens in the rectum preventing the passage of stool. Hence to treat each different types of constipation the method followed should also be different, tailored to treat each specific type.
With age the number of bowel movements gradually decrease hence a normal bowel movement would be constitutedbetween 3 to 21 times per week for an average adult. But it is usually seen that less than 50% of the people have bowel movement everyday and do not have the same number of bowel movements every day. In medical terms constipation is having less than three bowel movements per week and extreme constipation is having less than one bowel movement per week. Hence it is important to distinguish between normal constipation and chronic constipation for faster and effective treatment.
Immediate medical attention is required for chronic cases when constipation is accompanied by bleeding, pain and vomiting. Though constipation is caused by slow movement of digested food through the intestine the slowing usually takes place in the colon. Often the simple cause of constipation can be medications which do not suit the concerned individual which can be easily corrected by stopping the medication or replacing it with suitable medication. Constipation is also aggravated by the habits and diet of individuals.
If an individual is constantly suppressing the urge to defecate in the long run it leads to constipation. Low fiber content in the diet and abuse of laxatives also lead to constipation. Hormonal disorders, colonic inertia and neurological disorders are other known causes of constipation.
Medical advancements and better drugs now offer a variety of latest treatments for constipation. But efficient and effective treatments require proper understanding and evaluation of the cause. Apart from the age old treatment of including fibers in the diet, constipation now-a-days is often treated with the help of laxatives. These lubricant laxatives contain plain or emulsion oils that stay within the intestine to coat the stool particles while preventing the removal of water which in turn results in softer stools and consequently easier passage of stools. But prolonged usage of laxatives also causes constipation.
The mineral oils in laxatives might soften the stools but it does not break down the hard stool which might result in colorectal damage. Use of over the counter laxatives is not the solution to treating to constipation. It tends to become a habit and prolonged usage causes abuse of laxatives rendering them useless and landing you back into a constipated condition.
Saline laxatives cause severe indigestion when taken with food. Prolonged usage of saline laxatives is known to cause impaired kidney function with a possibility of diarrhea. Saline laxatives also cause dehydration and decrease the potassium levels in the body.
Stimulant laxatives are usually thought to be quite effective when treating constipation but this fixing comes at the cost of diarrhea, decreasing levels of sodium and potassium, dehydration, severe pains and damage to the intestinal walls. The condition induced is similar to ulcerative colitis requiring further treatment.
Most laxatives with long duration usage cause excessive thirst, burning while passing urine, dizziness, weakness, muscle cramps and skin rash. In extreme cases laxatives are also known to cause paralysis, appendicitis and intestinal blockage. Physicians hence advise pregnant and breast feeding women to avoid the use of laxatives. The laxatives cause unwanted effects in the mother and on the fetus like accumulation of potassium and phosphates. For similar reasons laxatives should not be administered to children below the age of 6 years.
Stool softeners or emollient laxatives contain ducosate, a compound known to increase the water retention abilities within the colon. The water then mixes with the stool to soften it and enable easy passing of stool. Similar to laxatives, stool softeners are rather infamous for its addictive nature which can further aggravate your already painful constipation. Ducosate is also known to cause decreases in the potassium and sodium levels in the human body which consequently causes heart problems and muscular problems.
Hyperosmolar laxatives are used to fix occasional constipation. These are substances that remain in the colon, undigested and unabsorbed to retain water for mixing with the stool and consequently soften it. Common hyperosmolar laxatives include lactulose, sorbitol, etc. Hyperosmolar laxatives should not be used more than once in a week as theycause severe constipation and in extreme cases fecal impaction.
These laxatives are usually lactose based and hence cannot be used by people who are lactose sensitive or lactose intolerant. A slight overdose in these individuals results in diarrhea. In others these laxatives cause bloating and cramping due to the gas produced by bacteria which is a result of the lactose fermenting in the intestines.
Enemas are one of the most commonly used treatment for constipation from normal to acute. Enemas work by stimulating the colon to contract and remove the stool. Enemas are not useful for treating chronic constipation and prolonged usage can cause damage to the colon muscles and rectum walls. Enemas require experience to administer which means that you will have to visit your physician every time to use enemas.
Some promise the painful permanent solution of surgery for constipation. Surgery involves removing most of the colon and attaching the remaining rectum to the small intestine but the solution is far from permanent. No bowel movement for a week and you are stuck with constipation again but this time with another problem, you just cannot strain or stretch your muscles post-surgery. This will cause you to reach out to laxatives which only compound your problems.
Treatments and their side effects cause a constipation-relief-constipation cycle which can be quite frustrating hence it is advised to think before you make a habit of using these treatments and compound your already painful problems associated with constipation.