Why kids' chronic constipation could be dangerous

Posted at 05/15/14 11:55 PM

MANILA -- What parents may think is simple constipation could be symptom of a rare and serious disease.

On Thursday's episode of DZMM's radio show "Magandang Gabi Dok," Dr. Rafael Dizon, a pediatric surgeon, explained the symptoms of Hirschsprung's disease, a rare condition that affects the intestines.

The congenital disease affects a young person's intestines, colon or rectum, and is caused by the absence of certain cells that aid in the movement of the colon and rectum.

Dizon said that this is different from the condition wherein a person suffers from constipation due to the shape of his or her intestines.

He said Hirschsprung's disease can be considered a functional blockage of the intestines.

The only way to treat Hirschsprung's disease through is surgery.

"Surgery lang ang makakagamot. Pwedeng bigyan ng laxatives o kaya colonic irrigation, pero in the end, kailangan pa rin ng surgery," added Dizon.


The symptoms of Hirschsprung's disease are similar to common constipation, including difficulty in bowel movement.

However, Dizon explained that what one might think is common constipation may actually be a symptom of this rare disease.

He added that it is important for the disease to be detected as early as possible, as it becomes more serious as the child grows older.

The disease can be detected as soon as a baby is born.

"Kapag new born, yung unang dumi, yung meconium, dapat within 24 hours, nailabas na. Kapag umabot ng 48 hours at hindi pa dumudumi, kailangan nang ma-check," Dizon said.

A person would have to undergo certain tests, such as rectal biopsy, or barium enema.

He also explained that as soon as the disease is detected, it is important for the person to undergo surgery.

During surgery, the abnormal part of the intestine would be cut off.

Dizon, however, said that not all babies who experience these symptoms are suffering from Hirschsprung's disease.

'Red flags of constipation'

In order for parents to know if their children are suffering from Hirschsprung's disease, or are just constipated, the doctor enumerated the "red flags of constipation'.

These include bleeding, severe pain, abdominal distention and vomiting.

"Ito yung signs na baka hindi lang constipation 'yun," Dizon said.

Dizon also explained that the disease is relatively rare, but having someone in the family suffering from the same disease increases a baby's risk of inheriting the disease.

He added that if the symptoms are felt at a later age, then it means that the affected segment of the intestine is shorter.

"May ibang patients na 10 years old, 12 years old na tsaka pa lang na-diagnose. Kapag late ang onset ng symptoms, mas maikli lang yung segment na kailangang putulin."

Dizon said that Hirschsprung's disease occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, at the time when organs start to develop.

Babies who have the disease lack ganglion cells in their rectum.

He added that at present, experts have yet to identify what causes the disease.

It also cannot be detected in congenital anomaly scans.

"Nakikita lang ang symptoms after magsimula dumumi ang bata," Dizon said.