How Long Does Constipation Last? What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Qin Rao, MD

How long constipation lasts can depend on the person, cause, and treatment. Typically, constipation lasts from a few days to several weeks. Treatment with self-care, medication, or addressing the underlying cause can help constipation go away sooner. Constipation is a symptom of many lifestyle factors and health conditions. Symptoms of constipation usually improve by addressing the underlying cause. How long constipation lasts can depend on whether the underlying cause is temporary or easily treated.

Talk with a doctor if you have questions or concerns about the duration of constipation.

This article discusses how long constipation lasts, including factors affecting its duration, treatment, and when to contact a doctor.

How long does constipation last?

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Constipation can last as long as the underlying condition that causes it.

Some underlying causes are temporary, so some episodes of constipation last only a few days Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . In other cases, long-term conditions cause constipation, so you could experience constipation symptoms for months Trusted Source Office on Women's Health Governmental authority Go to source , years, or indefinitely.

For example, if you have chronic idiopathic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C), symptoms may last until you receive treatment.

Still, management and self-care can help relieve your symptoms.

It is possible to pass some stool during periods of constipation. Still, you may experience other symptoms, such as:

  • having fewer than three bowel movements in a week
  • dry, hard, or lumpy stools
  • feeling that your bowels are not empty after going to the bathroom
  • difficulties or pain when passing stools

Frequent, severe, or persistent constipation symptoms may indicate an underlying condition.

Factors affecting duration

Constipation is a symptom, so it may continue until the underlying cause or condition is managed. Access to treatment and its effectiveness can also affect how long constipation lasts.

Conditions that may cause constipation include:

The following factors may also cause or worsen constipation:

  • not eating enough fiber
  • dehydration
  • not getting regular physical activity
  • some supplements or medications, such as:
    • calcium
    • iron
    • antacids
    • diuretics or “water pills”
    • anticonvulsants
    • calcium channel blockers
    • some medications for Parkinson’s disease
    • some antidepressants
    • narcotic pain medications, such as morphine (MS-Contin, MSiR, Kadian) or oxycodone (OxyContin, Longtec)

Read more about the causes, prevention, and treatment of constipation.

How to get rid of constipation sooner

Treatment for constipation depends on its underlying cause.

Self-care and medical treatments can improve constipation sooner Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source  and reduce its risk of returning.

Self-care methods to alleviate constipation include:

  • drinking plenty of water and other fluids
  • getting regular physical activity
  • eating enough fiber every day, according to your doctor’s recommendations
  • limiting foods with little to no fiber, such as highly processed foods, meat, and fast food
  • using a squatting position Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source with your knees higher than your hips while passing a bowel movement

Special footstools designed for use with the toilet can help improve your posture while going to the bathroom.

Always talk with a doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

See more home remedies for constipation.

Medications

Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications that may help with constipation include:

  • fiber supplements, such as methylcellulose (Citrucel)
  • osmotic agents, such as magnesium citrate (Citroma, LiquiPrep)
  • stool softeners, such as docusate (Colace, DulcoEase, Silace)
  • stimulant laxatives, such as:
    • bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Muxol, Alophen)
    • sodium picosulfate (Sodipic, Picofast, Laxoberal)
    • senna (ExLax, Senokot)

Always talk with a doctor or pharmacist before trying new OTC medications or remedies. Some options may not be safe for you and can interact adversely with other medications.

If OTC medications do not help or you have severe constipation, doctors may recommend prescription medications, such as:

  • lubiprostone (Amitiza) to increase fluids in your digestive tract and hydrate your stools
  • prucalopride (Motegrity) to help stools move through your colon quicker
  • plecanatide (Trulance) or linaclotide (Linzess) to improve and regulate your bowel movements

Other medical treatments

Further treatment options can help, depending on the cause.

For example, biofeedback therapy Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source can help treat constipation due to pelvic muscle disorders. Biofeedback therapy retrains the muscles to help move your stool more efficiently.

Surgery can help if the cause of constipation is a blockage in your gastrointestinal tract. In severe cases, doctors may also recommend surgery to remove the colon if its muscles do not work.

Doctors can advise you about the risks and benefits of surgery for digestive issues.

When to see a doctor

Talk with a doctor if your symptoms do not improve after trying at-home care or OTC medications.

Also, contact a doctor if:

  • you experience frequent constipation or have to regularly take OTC medications to manage it
  • you have other symptoms alongside constipation
  • prescribed treatments don’t seem to be helping
  • you are age 45 years or older and have new onset constipation

Only a doctor can identify or rule out any health conditions causing your symptoms that could require more treatment.

Contact a doctor as soon as possible if you have constipation and you experience any of the following symptoms:

Summary

Constipation can last for as long as the underlying cause is untreated.

Some causes can be mild or temporary, such as not eating enough fiber for a few days, while others include chronic conditions. As a result, constipation duration can range from a few days to indefinitely.

In addition to treating the underlying cause, treatment options include self-care, medication, and surgery.

Talk with a doctor if you have persistent or concerning symptoms of constipation or have any other questions.

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Medical Reviewer: Qin Rao, MD
Last Review Date: 2024 Apr 8
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