Many factors can lead to constipation -- infrequent or difficult-to-pass stool. Lack of physical activity, some medications, dehydration, poor diet, pregnancy, and severe illness can all contribute to this uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition. While symptoms of constipation that last a few days may not be cause for concern, lengthy periods of bowel disturbance should be investigated by a doctor. Health professionals typically define constipation as having fewer than three bowel movements per week or the passage of hard, dry stools.
The most obvious symptom of constipation is the inability to pass stool. An individual may feel as if they need to or are about to have a bowel movement but cannot complete the action. When this occurs, it is important to avoid straining, as this can cause more problems, such as tearing and hemorrhoids.
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