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Change in Bowel Habits Specialists in Concord, NC

What is a Change in Bowel Habits?

Bowel habits are the time, amount, consistency and frequency of bowel movements. Occasional changes in our regular pattern happen to everyone from time to time. However, if these changes – constipation and/or diarrhea persist, it may indicate an underlying health problem.

Common Symptoms of Change in Bowel Habits

Call your doctor if you are concerned about changes in your bowel habits or if these changes occur with any of the following:

  • Constipation occurs suddenly
  • Severe or sharp abdominal pain 
  • Blood in the stool or thin stools
  • Unexplained weight loss

Common Causes of Change in Bowel Habits

Some of the potential causes for changes in bowel habits include:

How To Get Diagnosed

Your gastroenterologist will conduct a thorough examination to determine the underlying cause of ongoing changes in bowel habits. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

Possible Complications of Change in Bowel Habits

Changes in bowel habits can be indicative of various underlying issues, and while not all changes are necessarily associated with serious complications, some may warrant medical attention. Complications may arise based on the specific nature of the change in bowel habits. Here are some potential complications and their associated causes:

  • Dehydration: Persistent diarrhea can lead to dehydration, especially if there is a significant loss of fluids and electrolytes. Dehydration can result in symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, and increased heart rate.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Chronic diarrhea or malabsorption issues can lead to nutrient deficiencies, as the body may not absorb essential vitamins and minerals properly.
  • Weight Changes: Significant and unexplained changes in bowel habits, such as chronic diarrhea or persistent constipation, can lead to unintentional weight loss or weight gain.
  • Rectal Bleeding: Changes in bowel habits, particularly the presence of blood in the stool, can indicate various gastrointestinal issues, including hemorrhoids, colorectal polyps, or even colorectal cancer.
  • Disruption of Daily Activities: Frequent and urgent bowel movements can disrupt daily activities, impacting quality of life and causing emotional stress and anxiety.
  • Impact on Mental Health: Persistent changes in bowel habits can affect mental health, leading to conditions like anxiety or depression, especially if the symptoms are chronic or unpredictable.
  • Complications of Underlying Conditions:
    • Changes in bowel habits can be symptoms of underlying conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or colorectal cancer. Complications related to these conditions can include bowel strictures, perforation, or malignancy.
  • Hemorrhoids: Chronic constipation or straining during bowel movements can contribute to the development or worsening of hemorrhoids, which are swollen blood vessels in the rectal area.
  • Diverticulitis: Changes in bowel habits, especially if associated with abdominal pain, may be indicative of diverticulitis, an inflammation or infection of small pouches in the digestive tract.
  • Infections: If changes in bowel habits are due to an infectious cause, complications may include the spread of infection, systemic illness, or the development of more severe gastrointestinal conditions.

It's crucial to consult a healthcare professional if you experience persistent or significant changes in bowel habits, especially if accompanied by other concerning symptoms. A thorough evaluation and appropriate diagnostic tests can help identify the underlying cause and guide appropriate treatment. Early intervention is often key to preventing complications and improving outcomes.

What is The Treatment for Change in Bowel Habits

The treatment for changes in bowel habits depends on the underlying cause of the symptoms. If you are experiencing persistent or significant changes in bowel habits, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. Treatment may involve a combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, and other interventions. Here are some general approaches based on common causes:

  • Diet and Lifestyle Changes:
    • Increased Fiber Intake: For constipation, increasing dietary fiber can help promote regular bowel movements. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
    • Hydration: Drinking an adequate amount of water helps maintain bowel regularity.
    • Regular Exercise: Physical activity can promote healthy bowel function.
  • Medications:
    • Laxatives: Depending on the nature of the bowel habit change, laxatives may be recommended for constipation. It's important to use them under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
    • Antidiarrheal Medications: If diarrhea is a symptom, medications like loperamide may be prescribed to control bowel movements.
  • Treatment of Underlying Conditions:
    • Infections: If changes in bowel habits are due to an infection, appropriate antibiotics or antiparasitic medications may be prescribed.
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Treatment may involve medications to reduce inflammation and manage symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be considered.
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Management of IBS may include dietary changes, stress management, and medications to control symptoms.
  • Addressing Psychological Factors:
    • Stress Management: Techniques such as relaxation exercises, counseling, or cognitive-behavioral therapy may be beneficial for those whose symptoms are influenced by stress or anxiety.
  • Colonoscopy or Imaging Studies:
    • If necessary, your healthcare provider may recommend a colonoscopy or other imaging studies to investigate the cause of changes in bowel habits, especially if there are concerns about conditions such as colorectal cancer.
  • Management of Hemorrhoids:
    • If hemorrhoids are contributing to changes in bowel habits, treatments may include topical medications, dietary changes, or in some cases, procedures to remove or shrink the hemorrhoids.

It's crucial to emphasize that self-diagnosis and self-treatment without professional guidance may not address the underlying cause and could potentially lead to complications. If you are experiencing changes in bowel habits, consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation.

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Contact Info

Northeast Digestive Health Center
1070 Vinehaven Drive NE
Concord, North Carolina 28025
Phone: (704)783-1840
Fax: (704)783-1850
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