A medical problem that could mimic the manifestation of constipation is an intestinal obstruction. This can occur if you have previously had a surgical operation that caused adhesions (scarring) of the intestines, leading to the obstruction. In addition, a tumor that has been growing in your intestines could also lead to a physical blockage. Intestinal obstructions can also occur spontaneously, be it due to defects from birth, or due to underlying inflammatory bowel diseases.
The best way to find out if you have been suffering from intestinal obstruction is to consult your medical doctor, who can request an x-ray of the abdomen in order to confirm or deny the diagnosis. There are two kinds of x-ray that could be requested for your abdomen, depending on whether you want to use the contrast medium or not.
If you use contrast, then it is an x-ray of the abdomen with contrast, and you will be asked to drink the solution prior to the procedure. Contrast helps the medical provider view the pathway of the intestines and colon. When the contrast shows up on x-ray, it appears as a white shadow. This shadow will help in distinguishing one structure from another, thereby ascertaining what has been taking place in your abdomen.
In most instances, your medical provider will initially request a plain x-ray of the abdomen to find out if you have an intestinal obstruction. He or she will request two views: one lying down, and one standing. If you have an intestinal obstruction, there are fluid levels seen on the x-ray when you were standing. Since there is no continuous flow of intestinal content, especially the fluid component, when there is an obstruction, it can be seen on the x-ray that fluid is prevented from flowing through the hollow tube – leading to different fluid levels in different segments of the intestine.
If the cause of your constipation is an intestinal obstruction, then you will most likely have to undergo hospitalization. If the obstruction is partial, you may be given a feeding tube to give your bowel rest and time to heal. If the obstruction is complete, or a tumor, then surgery will likely be needed to remove the obstruction; and it is possible that part of the intestine has been damaged. If you decide to undergo a surgical operation, you will be adequately prepared for it with lab testing and physical examinations conducted by your medical provider.
If your problem is a purely intestinal obstruction, then after the operation, you are well and good. However, if your problem was a tumor, which was malignant, then you may need to undergo chemotherapy after your operation.
Ileus is a medical condition wherein the intestines refuse to contract, thereby preventing the movement and flow of their contents. The medical provider will listen to your abdomen using a stethoscope. If your abdomen is totally silent, that is referred to “absent bowel sounds.” A healthy abdomen will have peristaltic sounds emanating from the contracting intestines. With absent bowel sounds, it is highly possible that you are suffering from intestinal ileus. This medical problem usually follows other disorder(s) in your systems, foremost of which is a kidney infection.
A kidney infection usually starts as a simple problem in the form of urinary tract infection (UTI). When your UTI is not immediately treated, it will go up to your kidneys, and the infection will spread and settle down there. As the kidney infection gets worse, its complications also get worse and spread wider, and—among other things—it will stop the contractions of your intestines, leading to constipation.
If it has been established that you have been suffering from UTI, then you will be prescribed with the necessary medications, such as ciprofloxacin or cefuroxime axetil. Both drugs are given at 500 mg, two times a day for 3 days. However, the best way to prevent UTI—and later, kidney infection—is good and consistent hygiene in the reproductive organs. Simple hygiene could be achieved by having a daily bath; and for women, always wiping from front to back after excretion.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disease that primarily affects your large intestine or colon. IBS occurs in form of constipation or diarrhea. If you have been suffering from cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, feeling of having a large amount of gas in your abdomen, diarrhea, and/or constipation it is possible that you have IBS.
The cause of IBS is not yet definitely known; however, the following could serve as triggers:
- Foods. There are indications that symptoms of IBS are triggered when you eat any of the following: chocolate, spices, fats, fruits, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, milk, carbonated beverages, or alcohol.
- Stress. You will also notice that your symptoms of IBS get worse when you are under stress. Some examples of these are final examinations, first weeks in a new job, meeting deadlines in your work etc. It should be emphasized, however, that stress aggravates the symptoms, but it does not cause them.
- Hormones. It is highly possible that hormones play a role in triggering signs and symptoms of IBS. Thus, IBS is more common among women than in men. In addition, you find that the signs and symptoms of your IBS are worse during or around your menstrual periods.
The cause of IBS is not yet clear. Thus, treatment is focused on the relief of your symptoms. For one, you need to manage whatever stress comes your way. In addition, you need to implement changes in your diet and lifestyle. Avoid foods that seem to trigger IBS. Get enough exercise, drink plenty of fluids, and get enough sleep.
There are now two drugs that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be used for treating IBS:
- Alosetron (Lotronex): This drug relaxes your large intestine. In effect, it slows down the movement of waste products in your large intestine. This drug is used for your IBS whose main manifestation is diarrhea.
- Lubiprostone (Amitiza): This drug increases the fluid secretion in your small intestine. Thus, passage of your stools is promoted. This is used if your IBS has constipation as the main manifestation.