Talking to your doctor about chronic constipation

Constipation is normal for many people and can be caused by a number of different factors. Changes to your diet, dehydration, and adjusting your bowel habits can all influence when a person suffers from constipation. To prevent constipation it is important to consume enough fiber, drink plenty of water, and maintain a well-balanced diet. If you are suffering from chronic constipation, and have been dealing with symptoms for three weeks or longer, it is time to seek help from a medical professional. Your general practitioner may be able to screen you for common problems that cause constipation, and they may recommend you visit a specialized doctor who is more familiar with problems in the digestive system. These doctors are called gastroenterologists.

How to prepare for your appointment

When you call the gastroenterologist’s office, be sure to have a pen and some paper nearby. Ask the receptionist what you need to do before your visit. Sometimes the doctor will ask you to make changes to your diet in the days leading up to your appointment. The doctor will also want more information regarding your condition, and it is a good idea to spend some time writing down a list of your symptoms. You will want to review your medical history and be ready to provide information to the doctor regarding the types of medications, supplements, and vitamins you are taking.

Other details that may be relevant to your visit include pregnancy, daily stress, and traveling. Before you visit the doctor’s office, make sure you understand the payment options and how much the visit will cost. Having all of this information organized will help you maximize your visit with the gastroenterologist, and it will help them to better diagnose the factors that may be causing your constipation.

Questions they may ask

Your doctor may have many questions to ask, and it is a good idea to start brainstorming your response. You will want to be familiar with questions regarding:

  • How long you have been suffering from constipation and when you started noticing symptoms
  • Whether your constipation is seemingly spontaneous or consistent.
  • Things that you’ve noticed that make constipation better or worse
  • Your daily nutritional intake, including the times you eat and drink
  • Any recent changes in weight
  • Blood in your stool or when you wipe
  • Straining to pass a bowel movement

These common questions will help your doctor determine if you are suffering from simple constipation, or whether it is a sign of a more serious problem.

Common tests for identifying root causes of constipation

The source of constipation may not be clear to your doctor, and they may need to conduct some tests to better assess your condition. Although these tests are often described as uncomfortable, they provide the gastroenterologist with important information to help their diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – The doctor uses a tiny tube with a camera on it to visually inspect the lower intestine and the rectum.
  • Colonoscopy – Similar to a flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopies involve visual inspections, but they include the entire large intestine.
  • Anal manometry – This test takes about 30 minutes, and involves a trained physician measuring how tightly the muscles respond to nerve signals.
  • Defecography – Barium paste is applied to the inside of the rectum, and an X-ray machine takes images as you pass the bowel movement.

Contact Us

If you are suffering from constipation and are concerned it might be a symptom of a larger issue, Bradley Rieders, MD and Gautam Reddy, MD are here to help you. Contact us at (516) 265-7049 for our Valley Stream, NY office, and at (516)-265-7049  to reach us at our Glendale, NY office today.