Obstipation is a severe form of constipation that results in a person being unable to have a bowel movement. Constipation is when a person has stools that are infrequent and difficult to pass.

Obstipation is a form of chronic constipation. It occurs when hard, dry stool remains in the bowels, causing a blockage. The bowels are part of a person’s digestive system. They consist of the small and large intestines.

When a person eats food, it travels through their digestive system. As it travels, the body absorbs nutrients and minerals from it. Anything the body does not need leaves as stool or urine.

When a person has obstipation, they cannot excrete stool or release gas via the anus. This can cause abdominal pain and bloating.

Read on to learn more about obstipation, including its causes and treatments.

There is a photo of a toilet.Share on Pinterest

Symptoms of obstipation may include:

A person who has obstipation may find that they occasionally have small amounts of watery diarrhea. This may occur if a person’s bowel is not blocked completely. An incomplete blockage may allow liquids to pass by the mass.

Learn about when constipation becomes an emergency.

Obstipation occurs due to chronic intractable constipation. This is a type of constipation that is long lasting and does not resolve.

This can happen due to the following, according to older research:

  • certain health conditions
  • abnormalities in the structure of the intestines
  • side effects of certain medications

Possible causes of obstipation include:

  • cancer
  • bowel obstruction
  • slow transit constipation, where stool moves too slowly through the colon
  • dyssynergia, where the muscles do not coordinate correctly to move stool
  • anorectal malformations, which are congenital anomalies that can affect bowel movements
  • Hirschsprung disease, which is a genetic abnormality that can cause stool to become stuck in the bowels

Medications and supplements that may cause obstipation or worsen constipation include:

Learn about chronic constipation.

A doctor may diagnose a person with obstipation in several ways. They may ask a person about the frequency of their bowel movements and take a full medical history. The doctor may also ask the person whether they are taking any medications.

Additionally, a doctor may ask a person whether they use laxatives, suppositories, or enemas, and if so, how often.

A doctor may also perform a physical exam on the person’s rectum and abdomen.

If they suspect obstipation or severe constipation, they may order tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes. These tests may include:

  • blood tests to check for anemia and other conditions
  • imaging tests such as X-rays to check the location and cause of the obstruction
  • endoscopy, such as a colonoscopy, which involves a healthcare professional inserting a tiny camera into the rectum to check for tissue damage
  • a biopsy of the bowel, which involves taking a small sample of bowel tissue
  • anorectal manometry, which tests the muscle tone and nerve sensitivity of the intestines and anus

A person’s doctor can explain what tests they will order and what they involve.

There are various different treatments a doctor can use to treat obstipation.

A doctor may first recommend a person takes laxatives or stimulant medications. However, chronic intractable constipation does not typically respond to laxative treatments, so the doctor may recommend other treatments.

Treatments may also depend on the underlying cause. For example, if a medication is causing obstipation, the doctor may recommend stopping or changing the medication. Never stop taking a medication or change a dosage without a doctor’s approval.

Treating any underlying conditions may also help to relieve symptoms of obstipation.

In some cases, a surgeon may need to remove an obstruction or repair damage to the bowel. If a doctor recommends surgery, they will be able to provide information about the benefits and risks of the procedure.

As obstipation can occur as a result of chronic intractable constipation, taking steps to help prevent constipation may help. These include:

Obstipation is a form of chronic constipation. It occurs when hard, dry stool remains inside a person’s bowels. This results in a person being unable to pass stool or gas.

Obstipation can cause abdominal pain and swelling, as well as small amounts of diarrhea. It can be caused by certain health conditions or as a result of some medications.

A doctor can treat obstipation in a number of different ways. They may recommend laxatives and treatments for any underlying conditions.