Constipation - Complications 

Complications with constipation 

Constipation rarely causes any complications or long-term health problems. Treatment is usually effective, particularly if it is started promptly.

However, if you have chronic (long-term) constipation, you may be more at risk of experiencing complications.

Rectal bleeding

If you continually strain to pass stools, it can cause pain, discomfort and rectal bleeding.

In some cases, bleeding is the result of a small tear around the anus (anal fissure), but it is more often the result of  haemorrhoids (piles). Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels that form in the lower rectum and anus.

As well as bleeding, haemorrhoids can cause pain, itching around the anus, and swelling of the anus.

Haemorrhoid symptoms often settle down after a few days without treatment. However, creams and ointments are available to reduce any itching or discomfort.

You should see your GP as soon as possible if you experience any rectal bleeding.

Faecal impaction

Chronic constipation can increase the risk of faecal impaction, which is where dried, hard stools collect in your rectum and anus.

Once you have faecal impaction, it is very unlikely that you will be able to get rid of the stools naturally.

Faecal impaction worsens constipation because it makes it harder for stools and waste products to pass out of your anus as the path is obstructed.

If you experience faecal impaction, it can lead to a number of other complications. These include:

  • swelling of the rectum
  • losing sensation in and around your anus
  • bowel incontinence, when you uncontrollably leak soft or liquid stools
  • bleeding from your anus
  • rectal prolapse, when part of your lower intestine falls out of place and protrudes from your anus (this can also occur as a result of repeated straining caused in people with chronic constipation)

Faecal impaction is usually treated with laxative medication, although suppositories (medication inserted into the anus) and mini enemas (where medicine in fluid form is injected through your anus) may sometimes be used.

See treating constipation for more information about this.


Page last reviewed: 08/01/2014

Next review due: 08/01/2016

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

elizabeth76 said on 25 February 2014

I am currently trying to reduce my Lansoprazole dose. I take Risedronate and Adcal. I also have IBS and acid reflux. I had a posterior repair a couple of years ago, and experienced compacted faeces before discharge from hospital. Since when I have experience compacted faeces at irregular intervals, and have to self extract in order to use suppositories or Micralax enemas. I take Lactulose Solution every day, but now have been told to take this dose twice a day. I find this results in a watery discharge from my rectum. I am a healthy, active 76 year old, and find theses problems are affecting my lifestyle. I also worry about coping with this problem in later years. The NHS does not appear to have a practical help for me.

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Pinky polo said on 14 November 2013

I think you that you should put more stress on the dangers of faecal impaction. I was given the wrong laxative, Fibogel, a bulker , for too long, when I should gave been given something like lactulose, as my colon finally ruptured leading to an emergency surgery and a colostomy. This happened despite numerous visits to my doctor and A&E where I was given X-rays that didn't show the extent of the impaction, and numerous enemas which didn't move anything. I'd hate this to happen to anyone else.

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kevhull said on 16 August 2013

This article was fairly informative but there needs (I feel) to be more text here on the adult problems with Piles/ Hemorrhoids than at present.

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Rectal bleeding

What to do if you are bleeding from the bottom, and the common causes