Overview

Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer.

Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week.

Though occasional constipation is very common, some people experience chronic constipation that can interfere with their ability to go about their daily tasks. Chronic constipation may also cause people to strain excessively in order to have a bowel movement.

Treatment for chronic constipation depends in part on the underlying cause. However, in some cases, a cause is never found.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of chronic constipation include:

  • Passing fewer than three stools a week
  • Having lumpy or hard stools
  • Straining to have bowel movements
  • Feeling as though there’s a blockage in your rectum that prevents bowel movements
  • Feeling as though you can’t completely empty the stool from your rectum
  • Needing help to empty your rectum, such as using your hands to press on your abdomen and using a finger to remove stool from your rectum

Constipation may be considered chronic if you’ve experienced two or more of these symptoms for the last three months.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience unexplained and persistent changes in your bowel habits.