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Pediatric Constipation Disorders

What is constipation?

Constipation is a common problem in children. Estimates show that constipation occurs at some point in about 4 to 34 percent of children. The condition is typically defined as stools less then three times per week with change in stool size and texture leading to gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Although, there are many causes of constipation in children, 99 percent of children have functional constipation where a combination of slow transit of stool through the colon and/or behavioral stool holding contributes to infrequent defecation.

Other common causes of constipation include anorectal malformations, Hirschsprung’s disease, spinal cord problems, thyroid disease or other endocrine disorders, and inflammatory conditions like celiac disease.

What are common symptoms related to constipation?

  • Decrease frequency of bowel movements
  • Large sized stools
  • Painful passage of stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Blood in stool
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Frequent Urinary incontinence and UTIs

How are constipation disorders diagnosed?

  • Evaluation by a Pediatric Gastroenterologist
  • Blood tests
  • Radiology tests: Contrast enema, MRI
  • Manometry- Anorectal manometry
  • Transit marker studies

How is constipation treated by Golisano Pediatric Gastroenterology?

The goal of treatment is to improve bowel movement frequency, eliminate the symptoms (especially fecal incontinence), and improve your child's quality of life. Treatment to improve bowel movement frequency focuses on using laxative stool softeners such as dietary fiber with increased water (simple but difficult to have children comply with), laxative stool softeners like milk of magnesia or miralax, and laxative stimulants like senna and ducolax.

Some children may need behavior modification in addition to laxative therapy. This includes home behavior of timed toilet use, establishing reward programs, meeting with a psychologist, and sometimes having a physical therapist aid to retrain the muscles needed for bowel movements. 

Our specialists dedicate themselves to finding the best treatment options and work with you to help improve the constipation problems affecting your child’s life.

Our specialists also work collaboratively with our colleagues at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida including nutritional specialists, psychologists, radiologists,  and surgeons in the diagnosing and treatment process.