Illustration of the anatomy of the digestive system, adult
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What is constipation?

Constipation is defined as:

However, normal stool elimination may consist of having a bowel movement three times a day or three times a week; it depends on the person. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints, resulting in 2.5 million health care provider visits annually. 

What causes constipation?

Sometimes, there is no identifiable reason for constipation in children. However, some of the causes may include:

Physical problems that can cause constipation include the following:

Why is constipation a concern?

Hard stools can irritate or tear the lining of the anus (fissure), making it painful to have a bowel movement. The child may avoid having a bowel movement, which can cause further constipation.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

The following are the most common symptoms of constipation. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of constipation may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is constipation diagnosed?

A health care provider will examine your child and obtain a complete medical history. Depending on the age of your child, you might be asked questions such as:

Occasionally, in addition to a physical examination, your child's health care provider may want to perform other diagnostic tests to determine if there are any problems. These tests may include:

When should you contact a health care provider?

Do not hesitate to contact your child's health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about your child's bowel habits or patterns. The National Institutes of Health recommends that you talk to your child's health care provider if:

What are treatments for constipation?

Specific treatment for constipation will be determined by your child's health care provider based on the following:

Treatment may include:

What is the long-term outlook for a child with constipation?

The outlook depends on what type of condition caused the constipation. Those children with diseases of the intestine, such as Hirschsprung's disease, may have chronic problems. However, most of the time, constipation is a temporary situation.

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