An impacted colon, also called fecal impaction, is a mass of hard, dry stool that gets stuck and is unable to move out of the intestines on its own. This stool blocks the colon and also traps fecal matter coming from above the blockage. If you suffer from this condition, you may feel constipated and experience abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting or poor appetite. Severe constipation can be the cause, but the impaction may be related to a medication or a medical disorder. Treatment is directed at removing the stool from the colon, and taking steps to prevent the impaction from occurring again.
Seek advice from your doctor to determine if you can try treating your impacted colon at home. If so, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) suppository or enema as a first step. Sometimes oral laxative solutions are recommended. These products soften the stool, pull extra fluid into the gut and stimulate peristalsis which is the muscular movement of the intestines.
If enemas or suppositories don't work to resolve the impaction, the hard, compacted stool will need to be manually fragmented and removed by your doctor. This is accomplished by the doctor inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum, and breaking up the pieces for removal. Since this may be uncomfortable, a sedative may be used. Laxatives or enemas may be used to help flush the pieces out of the colon. To avoid complications such as rectal tears and bleeding, this procedure should be performed by a health care professional.
After the fecal impaction has been treated, your doctor will explore the contributing factors so steps can be taken to prevent future episodes. Risk factors for fecal impaction and severe constipation include immobility, inactivity, a low fiber diet and poor access to toilet facilities. Certain medications, medical conditions and structural abnormalities of the colon can increase the risk of impaction.
To prevent future episodes, eat a high fiber diet -- including whole grains, bran, whole fruits and vegetables. Include plenty of water and other fluids, and exercise daily. Don't delay using the toilet if you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, and try to schedule regular times to use the toilet -- such as after your morning meal. If your doctor thinks you are at risk for developing another impaction, you may be advised to take a daily fiber supplement or stool softener.