What Tests Can Help Diagnose Constipation?

When it comes to diagnosing constipation, a doctor will typically start by asking about your medical history and performing a physical exam. They may also order routine blood, urine, and stool tests. Other diagnostic tests used to diagnose constipation include sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. If these tests don't provide enough information, your doctor may recommend more specialized tests such as x-rays or a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test.

At Mayo Clinic, our team of experts can help you with your health problems related to constipation. Treatment for chronic constipation usually begins with dietary and lifestyle changes aimed at increasing the speed at which stools move through the intestines. If those changes don't help, your doctor may recommend medications or surgery. If over-the-counter medications don't help with chronic constipation, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication, especially if you have irritable bowel syndrome. Surgery may be an option if you have tried other treatments and your chronic constipation is due to an obstruction, rectocele, or stenosis.

Many people use alternative and complementary medicine to treat constipation, but these methods haven't been well studied. Researchers are currently evaluating the usefulness of acupuncture. You'll likely first seek medical care for constipation from your family doctor or general practitioner. You may be referred to a specialist in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist) if your doctor suspects that this is a more advanced case of constipation. All of these patients must undergo a colonoscopy or barium enema to rule out an anatomical cause, as well as a basic series of blood tests to rule out abnormalities that may cause constipation.

Specialized tests for constipation are generally reserved for patients with severe or difficult to treat chronic constipation. For example, if your healthcare provider suspects that hypothyroidism is a possible cause of constipation, he or she will request a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test. In addition, the test can diagnose associated conditions such as internal intestinal invagination (a condition in which the intestine or rectum folds up in the shape of a telescope and causes an obstruction), rectal prolapse and rectocele. If your healthcare provider is concerned about bowel obstruction, he or she may order x-rays of your abdomen. Diagnosing constipation and determining its possible causes can sometimes be done only with a medical history and physical exam. If you have chronic or severe constipation, your doctor can help you diagnose the problem in different ways.

Norma Hoofard
Norma Hoofard

Hey, I'm Norma, and as a mom who has dealt with constipation in my own kids, I know how tough it can be. That's why I'm passionate about sharing my knowledge and tips for improving gut health and finding relief. It's not always an easy topic to discuss, but I believe it's important to bring attention to this issue and help others who may be struggling. Join me on this journey towards a happier, healthier gut - let's beat constipation together!