Is Fecal Impaction of the Colon?
When you eat food, it breaks down in your stomach and passes
through your intestines. This process is known as digestion. The walls of your
intestines absorb nutrients from the food. What remains as waste passes along to
your colon and rectum. At times, things may go wrong in this process and the
waste becomes stuck in the colon. This is known as fecal impaction of the
When you have an impacted colon, your feces become dry and won’t
budge, making it impossible to excrete them from your body. Impacted feces
block the way for new waste to leave the body, causing it to back up.
Are the Symptoms of Fecal Impaction?
All symptoms of fecal impaction are serious and warrant prompt
medical attention. They include:
- leakage of liquid stool
- abdominal discomfort
- abdominal bloating
- abdominal pain
- feeling the need to push
- a headache
- unexplained weight loss
- not wanting to eat
Severe symptoms include:
- a rapid heart rate
- hyperventilation, or rapid breathing
- a fever
- becoming easily agitated
- incontinence, or passing urine without trying
Causes Fecal Impaction of the Colon?
The primary cause of fecal impaction of the colon is constipation. Constipation is
difficulty passing stool or the infrequent passing of stool. Constipation is
often the result of:
- medication side effects
- insufficient nutrient intake
- not consuming enough fiber
- an illness
- frequent bouts of diarrhea
- problems in the digestive system
- diseases such as diabetes or thyroid disease
- an obstruction of the intestinal tract
- complications from pelvic or colorectal surgery
- continuous vomiting
- a spinal cord injury
- mental stress
- jet lag
Constipation is painful, and people who have it often feel
bloated and uncomfortably full. You may also feel the need to go to the
bathroom but are unable to do so. When stool doesn’t pass through the
intestinal system, it can become dry and hard and lodge in the colon. This is
called fecal impaction of the colon.
Once fecal impaction occurs, your colon won’t be able to remove
the feces from the body using its normal contraction process.
Is Fecal Impaction of the Colon Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have fecal impaction or if you have persistent
symptoms of constipation that aren’t getting any better, see your doctor at
once. Your doctor will perform a physical
exam, which includes an examination of your abdomen to confirm the
diagnosis. They’ll press down on your abdomen to feel for any masses or
hardened areas, which can help them locate the affected parts of your digestive
After this, your doctor will administer a digital rectal exam (DRE) to
check for fecal impaction. In this test, your doctor will put on a glove,
lubricate one of their fingers, and insert it into your rectum. This procedure doesn’t
usually cause pain, but you may feel some discomfort.
If your doctor suspects impaction after performing the DRE and
physical examination, they may order an X-ray of the abdomen. Other possible
procedures are an abdominal ultrasound or a viewing of the colon using a tiny microscope,
which is called a sigmoidoscope.
A barium enema can also highlight
the problem areas. A barium enema involves inserting a dye into your rectum and
then taking an X-ray of the colon and rectum.
Are the Treatment Options for Fecal Impaction of the Colon?
The first method of treatment for fecal impaction will most
likely be an oral laxative. There are many over-the-counter laxatives that can
help stimulate a clearing of the colon. Sometimes, a medicated suppository,
which is medicine that’s placed into the rectum, may help.
If a laxative or a suppository doesn’t unblock the feces from
your colon, your doctor will remove the feces manually. To do this, your doctor
will insert their gloved finger into your rectum and remove the blockage.
If your doctor is unable to remove the entire blockage, they’ll use
an enema or water irrigation to remove it. An enema is a small, fluid-filled
bottle with a nozzle attached. The nozzle inserts into the rectum. Then, your
doctor will squeeze the bottle, releasing the liquid into the rectum and colon.
This lubricates the colon and moistens the feces, making it easier to dislodge.
Water irrigation involves pushing a small hose up through the
rectum and into the colon. The hose connects to a machine that emits water
through the tube. After the irrigation, your doctor will massage your abdomen,
moving the waste out your rectum through another tube.
Are the Complications Associated with Fecal Impaction of the Colon?
Complications of fecal impaction of the colon include:
- tears in the colon wall
- anal bleeding
- anal tears
It’s important to pay attention to your bowel and visit a doctor
if you suspect any problems.
Do I Prevent Fecal Impaction of the Colon?
One way to prevent fecal impaction of the colon is to avoid
becoming constipated. Some diseases and certain medications make it impossible
to avoid constipation, but making small lifestyle changes can help.
- Drink plenty of water every day to prevent
- Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as whole
wheat, pears, oats, and vegetables.
- Reduce your intake of foods that are high in
sugar, which can cause constipation.
- Exercise daily to help keep your digestive
system running well.