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Constipation, the most common digestive complaint in the U.S. population, can make life miserable. Not only does constipation make you feel bloated, headachy, and irritable, but relieving constipation -- especially long-term or chronic constipation -- is time consuming and expensive. Each year in the U.S., chronic constipation leads to around 2.5 million doctor visits -- and medication costs of many hundreds of millions of dollars.
Chronic Constipation: What Is It?
The definition of chronic constipation varies among different people. For some people, chronic constipation means infrequent bowel movements for weeks at a time. To others, chronic constipation means straining or having difficulty passing stools. For instance, many describe chronic constipation as feeling like you need to have a bowel movement, but no matter how long you sit, it just won't happen. With chronic constipation, you may have hard or formed stools, small stools, or a combination of infrequent hard, formed or small stools.
Generally, the definition of chronic constipation is a stool frequency of less than three per week that lasts several months. Still, experts believe that many who think they suffer from chronic constipation may actually underestimate the frequency of their bowel habits, so this definition may not be accurate.