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Fleet Enema - What is the difference between constipation and fecal impaction?

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 10, 2023.

Official answer


Fecal impaction is a condition in which the colon becomes blocked from a mass of stool that can't be moved by colon contractions. Fecal impaction can cause pain and vomiting, and a person with fecal impaction may require emergency treatment or hospitalization. Fecal impaction is a fairly common complication of long-term constipation in the elderly and bedridden, occurring in about 30% of all nursing home residents.

Symptoms of constipation include:
Fewer than three bowel movements per week
Small, hard, dry stools that are difficult or painful to pass
The need to strain excessively to have a bowel movement
A feeling that your rectum is not empty after a bowel movement
Frequent use of enemas, laxatives or suppositories

Symptoms of fecal impaction include:
Liquid stool (the stool is leaking around the impacted mass of feces and can be mistaken for diarrhea)
Abdominal pain, especially after meals
A persistent urge to move the bowels
Nausea and vomiting
Poor appetite, weight loss
Malaise (a generally sick feeling

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