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Constipation in Adults (cont.)

When should I seek medical care for constipation?

Call your health-care professional if you have these concerns:

  • Symptoms are severe and last longer than three weeks
  • Recent and significant change in bowel habits, for instance, if constipation alternates with diarrhea
  • Severe pain in the anus during a bowel movement
  • Symptoms of other diseases in addition to constipation (for example, tiredness, fatigue, poor tolerance to cold weather may suggest the need to assess thyroid function for hypothyroidism, an underactive gland.)

When to seek emergency medical care for constipation

Although constipation may be extremely uncomfortable, it is usually not serious. However, it may signal a serious underlying disorder such as cancer of the bowel. Because constipation may lead to complications, go to a hospital's emergency department for any of the following reasons:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anal pain and hemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures or cracks in the mucous lining (severe pain during defecation in the anal area)
  • Fecal impaction (immovable intestinal contents) in very young children and in older adults
  • Rectal prolapse or sagging (occasionally, straining causes a small amount of the intestinal lining to push out from the rectal opening. This may lead to secretion of mucus that may stain the undergarments.)
  • Recurrent vomiting with constipation and abdominal pain (This may suggest intestinal obstruction and needs urgent hospital treatment.)
  • Severe abdominal pain with constipation that is constant and worsening, especially if it is accompanied with a fever.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/30/2015

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