More than 2.5 million people a year visit a doctor for frequent constipation, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. At East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy in Patchogue, New York, Christopher Tomaino, MD, often sees patients with complaints of constipation. While constipation is common, schedule an appointment with Dr. Tomaino right away if it begins to interfere with your daily life. Call East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy today or book a visit online to learn more.

What is constipation?

Constipation is a condition that occurs when you have difficulty passing stool or fully emptying your bowel. Though constipation can vary from person to person, passing stool fewer than 2-3 times per week is a good indication that you’re constipated.

Occasional constipation is common in patients of all ages, but chronic constipation is not. If you’re struggling to empty your bowel, you may have an underlying condition that is causing constipation.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

Passing stool infrequently isn’t the only sign of constipation. Some patients continue to pass stool while constipated, but their bowel movements feel strained, hard, or uncomfortable. Constipation affects everybody differently.

If you’re experiencing changes in your bowel movements, look out for these constipation symptoms:

  • Small, hard, pellet-like stools
  • Dry stools that are difficult to pass
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • A decrease in bowel movement frequency
  • Feeling like your rectum has a blockage

Talk to Dr. Tomaino at East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy if you’re experiencing one or more of the above symptoms for longer than two weeks, particularly if they are not responding to changes in diet, water intake, or physical activity.

What causes constipation?

When food normally moves through your large intestine (colon), your colon simultaneously forms stool while absorbing the water inside it. As muscle contractions push it through the colon, it becomes formed and solid.

If you have constipation, the muscles in your colon aren’t contracting quickly enough. Instead, your colon absorbs the water before the stool reaches your rectum, making it dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

The most common causes of constipation include:

  • A high-fat, low-fiber diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Ignoring the urge to pass a bowel movement

Less common causes of constipation are:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a chronic intestinal disorder that causes constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas.

Anal fissure

An anal fissure is a small tear inside the lining of the anus. It can happen when passing a large or hard stool, leading to pain and discomfort.


Diverticulitis occurs when small, bulging pouches form in the walls of your colon. If these pouches become inflamed or infected, the condition can turn into diverticulitis.

Colon cancer

Colon cancer causes malignant (cancerous) growths in the digestive tract. Often called colorectal cancer, this disease can develop anywhere in your digestive tract, including your rectum.

What are the treatments for constipation?

If constipation is affecting your daily life, Dr. Tomaino may recommend diet and lifestyle changes to improve your digestive function. A fiber-rich diet with plenty of water can help relieve constipation, as can regular exercise.

When diet and exercise aren’t enough to relieve constipation, Dr. Tomaino typically recommends a stool softener. In some cases, he may also suggest an enema to remove any stool stuck in your digestive tract.

If your bowel movements don’t improve, a colonoscopy is a test that examines the inside of your colon. A colonoscopy can help Dr. Tomaino check for any abnormal growth of lesions in your colon that may be causing constipation. Once your results are ready, he can determine the best course of treatment for you.

To learn more about constipation, call East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, or schedule an appointment online today.

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