Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How long can one go without defecating?"
It's been four or five days since I had a bowel movement, and I'm starting to get really worried. How long is it safe to go without defecating? Should I talk to a doctor, or is this normal?
Normal bowel movements occur between three to fourteen times per week. Constipation occurs when there is an increased hardness of stool or decreased frequency of bowel movements. It can be caused by medications, dietary problems, endocrine disorders, obstruction, and nerve or vascular disorders. The most common medications which cause constipation are opioid pain medications and calcium supplements. The withdrawal of colonic stimulants such as senna can also cause constipation. Eating a high fiber diet and drinking plenty of water is the most important way to prevent constipation. There are also many over the counter stool softeners, fiber supplements, and pro-motility agents which can help with the management of constipation. Constipation can rarely be due to postoperative changes, electrolyte abnormalities, thyroid dysfunction, and obstruction with a mass or foreign object. It is important to see your doctor if you experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, inability to pass gas, change in stool thickness, rectal bleeding, or other alarming symptoms. You should also be evaluated if you have recurrent chronic constipation or do not have a bowel movement in seven days despite dietary changes and over the counter remedies. He or she will be obtain more information about your symptoms and perform an exam in order to establish a diagnosis.
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