Constipation is one of the most common reasons for visiting the doctor. It is estimated that in the United States as many as 35 million adults may suffer from chronic idiopathic constipation.

Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. It includes difficulty in passing stools, straining, incomplete bowel movements or a feeling of incomplete evacuation after defecation, passing hard/lumpy stools, and a prolonged time interval between two bowel movements.

Since the time between bowel movements differs from person to person diagnosing constipation is somewhat difficult. However, going three days without a bowel movement indicates a problem. After three days the stool or feces become harder and more difficult to pass, this compounds the problem.

Chronic Idiopathic Constipation (CIC) is defined as the chronic presence of these symptoms. It is called idiopathic because the cause of this type of constipation is unknown and it is not caused by underlying illness or medication.

Symptoms of Chronic Idiopathic Constipation

Indications of CIC include:

  • Constipation or difficulty in passing stools
  • Hard and lumpy stools
  • Straining when defecating
  • Feeling of incomplete evacuation after completion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal discomfort and bloating
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Poorer physical functioning
  • Poor social functioning
  • Decreased quality of life and perception of health

Causes of Chronic Idiopathic Constipation

While by definition the cause of chronic idiopathic constipation is not known there are several factors that are associated with chronic idiopathic constipation. These include reduction in fluid and fiber intake in the diet, and changes in water balance.  These factors lead to changes in the way the colon contracts to move food through the digestive system.

As the movement of food through the digestive tract slows down, more water is absorbed from the fecal mass. This makes it hard and dry and more difficult to pass. To add to the problem these hard, dry stools may be small and lack the bulk to stimulate the urge to defecate and this results in infrequent bowel movements.

Warning Signs of Chronic Idiopathic Constipation

To ensure that chronic idiopathic constipation is not mistaken for a more serious condition such as bowel cancer beware of the following:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Onset of symptoms after age 50
  • Family history of bowel cancer and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Presence of fever and low blood count
  • Severe constipation not responsive to treatment
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diagnosis of chronic idiopathic constipation

Diagnosis is made by a medical professional mainly on the basis of history and physical examination of the patient. Individuals with symptoms such as bloating, hard and infrequent stools, and straining are commonly diagnosed with chronic idiopathic constipation.

Please visit our Chronic Idiopathic Constipation study page, If you are interested in participating in the current study.