Acute constipation is usually defined by a slowing of intestinal transit generating a decrease in bowel movements and the appearance of dehydration. The person will have difficulty defecating or may not be able to at all. We distinguish constipation due to a bowel movement disorder, the most frequent case, with another type of constipation called dyschezia, which is related to the difficulty with passing stools.
Constipation is usually defined as when a person has a bowel movement less than three times a week, but one can be constipated even with a higher frequency of defecation. It can also manifest itself as a need to push, a feeling that there are remaining stools in the bowel, or the need to use fingers to complete the evacuation. An episode of acute constipation will be determined by the criteria that occur for a few days or weeks: the stool is hard, dry, and a small or nonexistent amount comes out during bowel movements.
The diagnosis will be based on the signs mentioned above. An HCP may also do an X-ray of the abdomen in case of doubt, the latter being capable of showing a stagnation of waste, or a blocking of the rectum, called fecal impaction. A physical examination is also performed with palpation of the abdomen - the stomach will often be hard and distended to the touch, and stools can be felt on palpation.
The first line of treatment is to establish a high-fiber diet as well as adequate hydration. In the case of stools being found in the terminal part of the digestive tract, an enema (Normacol ®, enema spillway) may be performed to remove feces and restore transit. The use of glycerin (suppository) can also facilitate bowel movements. An oral laxative treatment (macrogol, lactulose ...) will be implemented in cases of chronic constipation and may take several weeks to restore proper transit.
As a precaution, it is best to eat well (balanced, high-fiber diet regime) to be properly hydrated (drink about 1.5 liters of water / day and to be sufficiently active to maintain good bowel and thus avoid bouts of constipation. Generally, dietary changes are enough to restore transit.