What Is Constipation?
Someone might have constipation if they:
• have fewer than three bowel movements (BMs) in a week
• have trouble having a bowel movement
• have stool (poop) that’s hard, dry, and unusually large
Constipation is a very common problem. It usually isn’t a cause for concern. Healthy eating and exercise habits can help prevent it.
Reasons why people get constipated include:
• Unhealthy diet. Constipation can be due to a diet that doesn’t include enough water and fiber, both of which help the bowels move as they should.
People who eat lots of processed foods, cheeses, white bread and bagels, and meats may find they’re constipated often. A healthier diet that includes high-fiber foods (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) can keep the stool from getting hard and dry.
• Not enough exercise. Moving around helps food move through the digestive system. So not getting enough physical activity can contribute to constipation.
• Stress. People can get constipated when they’re anxious about something, like a life change or a problem at home. Stress can affect how the digestive system works and can cause constipation, as well as other conditions, like diarrhea.
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A person with IBS may have either constipation or diarrhea, as well as stomach pain and gas.
• Ignoring the natural urge. Avoiding going to the bathroom, even when you really have the urge to go, can cause constipation. When you ignore the urge to go, it can be harder to go later on.
• Some medicines. Sometimes, medicines like antidepressants and those used to treat iron deficiencies can lead to constipation.
In rare cases, constipation is a sign of other medical illnesses. Call your doctor if you continue to have problems, or if the constipation lasts for 2 to 3 weeks.
What Is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is loose, watery stools (bowel movements). You have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts a short time. It is a common problem. It usually lasts about one or two days, but it may last longer. Then it goes away on its own.
Diarrhea lasting more than a few days may be a sign of a more serious problem. Chronic diarrhea — diarrhea that lasts at least four weeks — can be a symptom of a chronic disease. Chronic diarrhea symptoms may be continual, or they may come and go.
The most common causes of diarrhea include:
• Bacteria from contaminated food or water
• Viruses such as the flu, norovirus, or rotavirus . Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in children.
• Parasites, which are tiny organisms found in contaminated food or water
• Medicines such as antibiotics, cancer drugs, and antacids that contain magnesium
• Food intolerances and sensitivities, which are problems digesting certain ingredients or foods. An example is lactose intolerance.
• Diseases that affect the stomach, small intestine, or colon, such as Crohn’s disease
• Problems with how the colon functions, such as irritable bowel syndrome
Some people also get diarrhea after stomach surgery, because sometimes the surgeries can cause food to move through your digestive system more quickly.
Sometimes no cause can be found. If your diarrhea goes away within a few days, finding the cause is usually not necessary.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal disorder that affects the colon (the large intestine). The colon’s main job is to absorb water and nutrients from partially digested food. Anything that is not absorbed is slowly moved through the colon toward the rectum and out of the body as waste in the form of feces (poop).
Muscles in the colon work to get rid of the body’s waste products. They contract and relax as they push the undigested food through the large intestine. These muscles also work with other muscles to push the waste out of the anus.
If the muscles in the colon don’t work at the right speed for proper digestion or if the coordination with muscles in the rectum or pelvis is interrupted, the contents of the colon can’t move along smoothly. When this happens, a person can feel the belly cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea that may be signs of IBS.
A lot of teens have IBS. It’s estimated that between 6% and 14% of all teens have IBS symptoms. It seems to affect more girls than guys.
The good news is that although IBS can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even painful, it’s not life threatening. And, unlike other digestive conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, IBS doesn’t carry a risk of permanent damage to the intestines.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus or lower part of the rectum
Hemorrhoids are very common. They result from increased pressure on the anus. This can occur during pregnancy or childbirth, and due to constipation. The pressure causes the normal anal veins and tissue to swell. This tissue can bleed, often during bowel movements.
Hemorrhoids may be caused by:
• Straining during bowel movements
• Sitting for long periods of time, especially on the toilet
• Certain diseases, such as cirrhosis
Hemorrhoids may be inside or outside the body.
• Internal hemorrhoids occur just inside the anus, at the beginning of the rectum. When they are large, they may fall outside (prolapse). The most common problem with internal hemorrhoids is bleeding during bowel movements.
• External hemorrhoids occur outside the anus. They can result in difficulty cleaning the area after a bowel movement. If a blood clot forms in an external hemorrhoid, it can be very painful (thrombosed external hemorrhoid).
A rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal connection between the lower portion of your large intestine — your rectum — and your vagina.
Bowel contents can leak through the fistula, allowing gas or stool to pass through your vagina.
A rectovaginal fistula may result from:
• Injury during childbirth
• Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel disease
• Radiation treatment or cancer in the pelvic area
• Complication following surgery in the pelvic area
The condition may cause emotional distress and physical discomfort, which can impact self-esteem and intimacy. Talk with your doctor if you have signs and symptoms of a rectovaginal fistula, even if it’s embarrassing. Some rectovaginal fistulas may close on their own, but most need surgical repair.
A rectovaginal fistula may form as a result of:
• Injuries during childbirth. Delivery-related injuries are the most common cause of rectovaginal fistulas. This includes tears in the perineum that extend to the bowel, or an infection of an episiotomy — a surgical incision to enlarge the perineum during vaginal delivery. These may happen following a long, difficult, or obstructed labor. These types of fistulas may also involve injury to your anal sphincter, the rings of muscle at the end of the rectum that help you hold in stool.
• Crohn’s disease. The second most common cause of rectovaginal fistulas, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease in which the digestive tract lining is inflamed. Most women with Crohn’s disease never develop a rectovaginal fistula, but having Crohn’s disease does increase your risk of the condition.
• Cancer or radiation treatment in your pelvic area. A cancerous tumor in your rectum, cervix, vagina, uterus or anal canal can result in a rectovaginal fistula. Radiation therapy for cancers in these areas can also put you at risk. A fistula caused by radiation usually forms within six months to two years after treatment.
• Surgery involving your vagina, perineum, rectum or anus. Prior surgery in your lower pelvic region, such as removal of your uterus (hysterectomy), in rare cases can lead to development of a fistula. The fistula may develop as a result of an injury during surgery or a leak or infection that develops afterward.
• Other causes. Rarely, a rectovaginal fistula may be caused by infections in your anus or rectum; infections of small, bulging pouches in your digestive tract (diverticulitis); long-term inflammation of your colon and rectum (ulcerative colitis); dry, hard stool that gets stuck in the rectum (fecal impaction); or vaginal injury unrelated to childbirth.
A colorectal polyp is a growth on the lining of the colon or rectum.
Polyps of the colon and rectum are most often benign. This means they are not a cancer. You may have one or many polyps. They become more common with age. There are many types of polyps.
Adenomatous polyps are a common type. They are gland-like growths that develop on the mucous membrane that lines the large intestine.
They are also called adenomas and are most often one of the following:
• Tubular polyp, which protrudes out in the lumen (open space) of the colon
• Villous adenoma, which is sometimes flat and spreading, and is more likely to become a cancer
When adenomas become cancerous, they are known as adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinomas are cancers that originate in glandular tissue cells.
Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of colorectal cancer.
Other types of polyps are:
• Hyperplastic polyps, which rarely, if ever, develop into cancer
• Serrated polyps, which are less common, but may develop into cancer over time
Polyps bigger than 1 centimeter (cm) have a higher cancer risk than polyps smaller than 1 centimeter. Risk factors include:
• Family history of colon cancer or polyps
• A type of polyp called villous adenoma
A small number of people with polyps may also be linked to some inherited disorders, including:
• Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
• Gardner syndrome (a type of FAP)
• Juvenile polyposis (disease that causes many benign growths in the intestine, usually before 20 years old)
• Lynch syndrome (HNPCC, a disease that raises the chance of many types of cancer, including in the intestine)
• Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (disease that causes intestinal polyps, usually in the small intestine and usually benign)