Constipation

It’s not unusual for children to have difficulty with bowel movements from time to time. Constipation is a common bowel movement disorder in children, ranging from mild to severe. The board-certified pediatric gastroenterologists with Norton Children’s Gastroenterology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the experience to treat severe, chronic constipation in kids.

What Is Constipation?

Constipation happens when stool moves too slowly throughout the colon. Fluid in the stool is absorbed by the body, making it hard and potentially difficult to pass.

What Causes Constipation?

Causes of constipation can include:

  • Avoiding going to the bathroom because of worry related to being away from home, or not wanting to stop play or activities
  • Changes in diet
  • Family history and/or emotional stress
  • Fear from passing a large or hard stool in the past
  • Not eating enough fiber
  • Not drinking enough water

Certain medications can cause constipation, as well as some medical conditions, including:

  • Congenital abnormalities of the intestinal tract, rectum or anus
  • Endocrine conditions such as hypothyroidism
  • Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition in which some of the intestinal nerve cells don’t develop as they should, affecting the movement of food and stool in the intestines
  • Nervous system conditions such as cerebral palsy
  • Neurological conditions that cause low muscle tone
  • Spinal cord injury

Signs of Constipation

Constipation often has symptoms that include a child straining to pass hard, dry stool that can look pellet-like. Other signs of constipation can include:

  • Clogging the toilet with stool
  • Frequent abdominal (belly) pain
  • Large bowel movements
  • Soiled underwear

Constipation Treatment

Mild cases of constipation can be handled by your child’s pediatrician. Constipation treatment depends on your child’s age, current health, symptoms and severity of constipation. The board-certified pediatric gastroenterologists with Norton Children’s Gastroenterology will work with you and your child to develop a unique care plan.

Treatments can include:

  • Medicines that soften the stool (do not use over-the-counter medicines to treat your child’s constipation without first talking to your child’s pediatrician)
  • Diet modifications, including an increase in fiber and water
  • Toilet sitting after meals to promote regular bowel movements
  • Laxatives or enemas for some children (do not use over-the-counter medicines to treat your child’s constipation without first talking to your child’s pediatrician)
  • Sacral nerve stimulation – a device implanted to gently activate the pelvic nerves
  • A small number of children may require colorectal surgery

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