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Bowel Impaction

Sometimes chronic constipation can cause a large mass of dry, hard waste to accumulate in the rectum. This mass is called a bowel impaction and can be so hard you can’t get rid of it without extreme effort or even medical intervention. Watery stool located higher in the bowel may possibly move around the mass and cause soiling as well.

Causes and Risk Factors of Impaction

Certain people are at higher risk of developing chronic constipation:

  • Anyone taking medications (don’t believe it? Conduct a little research—constipation is a side effect of many popular drugs)
  • Patients on a methadone maintenance program due to a drug addiction
  • People taking anti-cholinergic or anti-diarrhea medications
  • People with a limited ability to move, such as those with cerebral palsy

Symptoms of Impaction

If someone has chronic constipation and suddenly experiences watery diarrhea, this may indicate the onset of bowel impaction. Some other symptoms of impaction include:

  • Frequent straining
  • Passage of liquid or watery stool
  • Producing small, semi-formed but hard BM’s
  • Abdominal cramping or discomfort
  • Bloating or excess gas

When Impaction Warrants Intervention

A visit to your healthcare provider is warranted only if your bowel impaction does not improve with adjustments in diet. If your symptoms worsen greatly or do not diminish after several days, you can be said to have developed a case of chronic constipation. Your healthcare provider can examine your stomach area to appreciate the hard mass of dry waste typical of impaction.

If you have experienced a recent change in your bowel habits, you may also wish to schedule a colonoscopy to rule out rectal cancer. You will need to implement positive lifestyle changes to help prevent future bouts of constipation.

Other Diseases and Problems Associated with Impaction

Bowel impaction can also be a symptom of Hirschsprung’s Disease or congenital Megacolon caused by the absence of ganglion cells within a distal section of the large intestine. In most cases, this condition is seen in newborns because of a delay in their first bowel movement. The child may also experience abdominal swelling and spit up bile. The condition usually begins during infancy and may be a lifelong problem if not addressed promptly.

This particular digestive malfunction creates a lack of the urge to defecate. This absence of “signaling” causes waste to back up in the colon, thus creating the condition known as Megacolon, leading to frequent bowel impaction. Surgery is customarily the method of treatment for this condition, but it depends upon the severity of the condition and the age and health of the child as to whether or not natural methods can be tried first.

Only in rare instances is surgery actually required to correct a case of impaction, but if the waste is not removed, the colon may eventually become overly dilated. A complete blockage of the bowel may occur also. Either of these factors may require emergency surgery to remove the impaction before autointoxication leads to severe health issues.

Preventing Bowel Impaction

Typically, cause and prevention for impaction involves knowing the causes and taking preventive measures. In most cases, following a positive health regimen can help prevent bowel impaction.

  1. Adopt a diet rich in fiber, including whole-wheat grains, bran, and fresh fruits and vegetables to add bulk for bowel movements.
  2. Increase your daily consumption of purified water to at least double your current intake.
  3. Engage in regular exercise to strengthen abdominal muscles and promote regular bowel activity. People with limited mobility should try to change positions frequently and perform abdominal contraction exercises as well as leg raises if possible.
  4. Use the bathroom immediately when you feel the urge. Do not hold it. This bad habit quickly paves the way for constipation to arise.

Bowel impaction is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly. In many cases, constipation is self-inflicted from a lack of exercise, following a low fiber diet, and delaying nature’s call because of work or play involvement. Sometimes, people do not wish to use bathroom facilities in public.

Nonetheless, what is more embarrassing—going to the bathroom when needed or being put into a hospital because you failed to maintain your digestive health? Take care of your colon so you can avoid such issues, and implement the aforementioned positive lifestyle changes before it’s too late!

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