Constipation is defined as bowel movements less than 3 times each week or straining is required with bowel movements or passage of small hard stools. Generally female is more likely to suffer from constipation than male. Constipation may be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome. Any recent change in bowel habits, if persistent, may be cause for concern.

What kind of evaluation should constipated patients undergo?

The doctor may recommend colonoscopy, an examination with a flexible viewing tube. This examination is important if the constipation developed suddenly or if it is worsening noticeably. Occasionally, other tests are needed to determine the cause. An abdominal x-ray may show evidence of bowel obstruction or suggest another cause. Colonic motility test involves ingestion of a capsule containing tiny rings that can be seen on x-rays. An x-ray is taken several days later. Measurement of the ring movement can decide whether slow transit is the cause of constipation.