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How are chronic and acute constipation diagnosed?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Chronic constipation can be diagnosed with a physical exam, which will include a rectal exam. Your doctor will also ask you a series of questions about your diet, lifestyle, medications, and family medical history. A history of chronic constipation will warrant more extensive testing to rule out other diseases. Clinical tests include testing for cancer with a barium enema x-ray and a colonoscopy. Other tests allow the doctor to take a look at how the muscles in the intestines are functioning and how well stool is being eliminated from the colon.

The onset of symptoms differs between acute and chronic constipation, but diagnosis is essentially the same. Your doctor will diagnose acute constipation with a physical examination and full medical history. This includes questions about your normal bowel movement patterns, and whether you have had constipation in the past. If you report having great difficulty during bowel movements, your doctor may diagnose you with acute constipation. Your doctor will also look for possible underlying causes of acute constipation, such as disease (hypothyroidism), diet, blood in the stool, recent medications, fluid intake, and level of activity. More extensive testing may be performed if your symptoms are severe.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.