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Constipation can occur for many reasons; in fact, most people will experience mild constipation at some point in their lives. When constipation occurs on a regular basis, however, it can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition that requires prompt medical attention to prevent serious complications. Most cases of mild constipation occur as a result of dietary choices, such as a diet low in fiber; chronic constipation can occur for reasons including:
bowel blockages, including colon cancer
nerve-related conditions that affect the way the colon contracts and moves during digestion
muscular conditions affecting the colon or rectum
gallbladder disease or liver disease
irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease
Diarrhea can be caused by:
stomach virus or bacterial, parasitic or fungal infection
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Because diarrhea can cause dehydration, often in a relatively short period of time, it's always a good idea to call the office to determine if you need to be evaluated. Diarrhea accompanied by a high fever, significant belly pain, or bloody stools, should be reported immediately. Diarrhea that persists for three or more days also needs to be reported right away.
Treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis, which will include a physical exam and medical history and a discussion of symptoms, and may also include blood tests, stool samples, diagnostic imaging like x-rays or CT scans, and diagnostic evaluations like colonoscopy or endoscopy, depending on your symptoms and risk factors. Most cases of constipation or diarrhea can be treated with medication, but in a few cases, surgery may be required to correct serious issues.
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