Constipation can last for a few days or a number of weeks, depending on the cause and how effective treatments are. It may be possible to treat constipation with home remedies, though some cases may require medication.

Experts define constipation as when a person has fewer than three bowel movements per week. It affects around 16 in every 100 adults in the United States.

This article discusses how long constipation lasts, its symptoms, home remedies, medical treatments, and more.

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Depending on the cause and how someone chooses to treat it, constipation can last for a number of days or weeks.

Laxatives typically work within 3 days. If a person decides to treat constipation with dietary changes, it may take a few weeks for symptoms to ease.

A person may wish to contact a doctor if their symptoms do not ease with home remedies or over-the-counter (OTC) medications after a few weeks of infrequent bowel movements.

Learn about how often a person should poop.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the symptoms of constipation include:

  • having fewer than three bowel movements per week
  • passing stools that are lumpy, hard, or dry
  • difficulty or pain when trying to pass stool
  • a feeling that the bowel has not fully emptied

Severe symptoms

More severe symptoms of constipation can include:

If a person is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important for them to contact a doctor for advice.

Learn about when constipation is a medical emergency.

A person may be able to alleviate constipation with home remedies.

Some home remedies for constipation include:

Learn more about home remedies for constipation.

Medical treatments for constipation focus mainly on laxatives and medications.

Below we list the generic name for a medication followed by a brand-name version of it in brackets. Some drugs are only available in branded versions.

OTC medications a doctor may recommend include:

  • osmotic agents such as polyethylene glycol 3350 (MiraLAX) or magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia)
  • fiber supplements such as polycarbophil (FiberCon) or methycellulose (Citrucel)
  • stool softeners such as docusate (Colace)
  • stimulants or laxatives such as bisacodyl (Dulcolax)
  • lubricants such as mineral oil

A person’s doctor may also recommend prescription-strength medication. Examples include:

In cases of chronic constipation, other treatments a doctor may recommend include biofeedback therapy and surgery. Biofeedback therapy involves retraining the muscles that manage bowel movements. A person may need surgery if the muscles do not work correctly or if there is a blockage.

Learn about bowel regimens for constipation.

A person may wish to contact their doctor if they experience constipation frequently or if they feel they have to regularly take laxatives.

It is best for a person to let their doctor know about any symptoms they are experiencing and discuss the effects constipation has on their daily life.

Learn about risks associated with constipation.

To help prevent constipation, it may be beneficial to:

Learn about foods that can help relieve constipation.

Here are some more frequently asked questions about constipation.

Can constipation last for days?

Constipation may last for several days or weeks. If constipation does not go away or keeps happening, it is best to contact a doctor for advice.

Does constipation go away on its own?

Constipation may resolve on its own without medical treatments. Home remedies and dietary changes may help to resolve constipation.

When should I worry about constipation?

If someone does not experience relief from constipation within a number of weeks, or if constipation recurs, it is best for a person to contact their doctor.

A doctor may diagnose constipation when a person has fewer than three bowel movements per week. Constipation may last days or weeks.

A person may be able to relieve constipation with home remedies and dietary changes. A doctor may also recommend OTC or prescription-strength medication.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they frequently experience constipation or if their symptoms do not ease after trying home remedies for a number of weeks.