Difficult or infrequent bowel movements; depending on the patient and situation, constipation can be used to describe difficult stool passage requiring straining, small and/or hard stools, infrequent defecation, or a feeling of incomplete defecation.
This represents a distinct change for the patient, and usually indicates an alteration in diet and/or lifestyle, strong stress, or an organic cause. In patients with no obvious cause and where the constipation is quite recent, a mechanical bowel obstruction should be investigated.
Normal frequency should be an easy, full movement at least once daily. Factors influencing regularity and ease of stool passage include diet and individual colonic health and activity, insufficient dietary fiber and roughage. Bowel inflammation is another contributing factor to consider.