Fecal Impaction vs. Constipation

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Constipation and Fecal Impaction are not the same thing. While they both involve the intestines, bowels and fecal matter, they are two different problems that have to be treated differently. Learn about the differences between Fecal Impaction and Constipation.


Constipation and fecal impaction are not the same thing. Many people think that they are the same. While they both involve the intestines,Fecal Impaction vs. Constipation Articles bowels and fecal matter, they are two different problems that have to be treated differently.

Constipation is the term used to describe slow moving feces or stool through the intestines. The longer it takes for fecal matter to be eliminated from the body, the drier and harder it will become. Symptoms of constipation include passing small, dry hard stools, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, straining, fatigue, bad breath, skin eruptions, abdominal pain, hemorrhoids and irregular bowel movements.

Fecal impaction is the term used to describe a large mass of hard stool or fecal matter that is “stuck” in the rectum. Symptoms of fecal impaction may be similar to constipation symptoms. However, in addition to those symptoms the individual may have bladder problems, back pain, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, a distended abdomen, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, fever, dizziness and even high or low blood pressure. Individuals who have a fecal impaction may also experience very explosive diarrhea. This diarrhea does not remove the impaction, it moves around the impaction.

Constipation can be very uncomfortable and annoying. Fecal impaction is far more dangerous than constipation. Fecal impaction can be life threatening. Fecal impaction that is not treated can worsen and the individual could possibly die from it.

Constipation can be caused by numerous things including not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough liquids, a lack of exercise, certain medications, changes in lifestyle or routine, ignoring the urge to move your bowels, abusing laxatives, irritable bowel syndrome, pregnancy, traveling and other various reasons.

Fecal impaction can be caused by ignoring constipation, pain medications, illness and long term use of laxatives. Many people are surprised to learn that prolonged use of stimulant laxatives can lead to fecal impaction, but it is true. With prolonged use the colon can become dependent upon the laxative to aid it in evacuation. When the colon has been exposed to laxatives and stool softeners for a period of time and then it does not get the expected dose, constipation and fecal impaction can occur. To put it simply, prolonged laxative use can make your body forget how to move and evacuate fecal matter on its own.

If constipation is not addressed and an individual develops fecal impaction it cannot be treated as easily. Fecal impactions in the rectum must be removed manually by a medical professional.

Constipation should be addressed at its onset to prevent a fecal impaction. Steps to alleviate constipation can include making changes in the diet, drinking an adequate amount of water, exercising and doing a colon cleanse. Tips to aid in stool evacuation include the following:

  • When you are sitting on the toilet, it is important that you do not hold your breath when you are trying to eliminate a stool. A good constipation tip is to breathe in your nose and out through your mouth. Holding your breath while you are trying to pass a stool can actually hamper the elimination process because it closes up the bottom.
  • Learn how to push without straining. When you have placed your feet on the stool, simply lean forward and breathe normally. This will enable your stomach muscles to push the stool out without straining. Essentially, you are pushing from your waist.
  • You should always respond to any sign that your bowels want to move. Delaying or putting off a bowel movement can aggravate constipation. No matter where you are, if you feel like your bowels want to move, find a bathroom.

Don’t let constipation get the better of you. Be proactive and take the necessary steps to keep you body’s digestive system in good health and running smooth.

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