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NHS Choices Condition

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Constipation rarely causes any complications, or long term health problems. Treatment is usually very effective, particularly if it is started promptly. However, if you have chronic (long-term) constipation, you may be more at risk of experiencing complications.


If you have to continually strain to pass stools, it can cause pain, discomfort and bleeding. Excessive straining can also lead to haemorrhoids. More commonly known as piles, haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels which form in the lower rectum and anus.

When you strain to pass stools, it can damage the anal canal, making the blood vessels which line it, sore and inflamed. Haemorrhoids can cause

  • itching around the anus,
  • swelling of the anus,
  • pain, and
  • bleeding from the anus.

See the 'related articles' section for more information about haemorrhoids.

Faecal impaction

Chronic constipation can increase the risk of faecal impaction (where dried, hard stools collect in your rectum and anus). Once you have faecal impaction, it is very unlikely that you will be able to get rid of the stools naturally. Faecal impaction worsens constipation because it makes it harder for stools and waste products to pass out of your anus because the path is obstructed.

If you experience faecal impaction, it can lead to a number of other complications. These include:

  • swelling of the rectum,
  • loosing sensation in and around your anus,
  • faecal incontinence - when you uncontrollably leak soft, or liquid, stools,
  • bleeding from your anus, and
  • rectal prolapse - when part of your lower intestine falls out of place and protrudes from your anus.

Psychological effects

If your child is experiencing faecal incontinence (as a result of their constipation) it may affect them psychologically.

Faecal incontinence can be a very upsetting and embarrassing problem for children to deal with. If they are at school, they may find themselves teased, or socially excluded. This can make a child feel withdrawn. They may feel very alone, and struggle to talk about what they are experiencing.

You may notice a change in your child's behaviour. If you do notice a change, try to talk openly and honestly with them, and encourage them to tell you how they are feeling.

You should also try and speak to your child's teacher, to make sure that they understand the situation. The teacher will be able to help make sure that your child is not upset, or left feeling excluded by other children.

view information about Constipation on www.nhs.co.uk »

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