Constipation and herpes infection link may help gastrointestinal disease patients with no clear cause. Herpes patients often report unrelated symptoms, which include constipation and urinary retention, but the underlying mechanisms explaining the presence of these symptoms in herpes patients are not understood. To explore the link, researchers used mice models of herpes.
The researchers found that the herpes virus spreads from the genitals to the spinal cord and then to the neurons in the colon. When colonic nerves are destroyed, food cannot move along the digestive tract properly, which can lead to an enlarged colon and disease.
“The key findings is that there is this unexpected infection in the neurons in the colon wall after herpes infection. Other members of the herpes virus family, including Epstein-Barr virus, chicken pox virus, and cytomegalovirus have been found in the neurons of the colon of people with unexplained chronic constipation. When doctors can’t figure out the cause of these chronic intestinal conditions, one thing to look at is a viral infection,” explained lead research Akiko Iwasaki.
Causes and symptoms of chronic constipation
Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stools experienced over the course of days or weeks for several months. Constipation is described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week.
Occasional constipation is common but temporary. Chronic constipation is more persisting and can interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily tasks.
Symptoms of chronic constipation include passing fewer than three stools a week, having lumpy or hard stools, straining to have bowel movements, feeling as though there is a blockage in the rectum preventing the release of stools, feeling as though you haven’t completely released stool from the rectum, and needing help to remove stool from the rectum.
Constipation is considered chronic if you experience two or more of these symptoms for at least three months.
Constipation takes place when stool passes slowly through the digestive tract and thus cannot be fully eliminated. When this occurs, stool becomes dry and hard, which makes it even more difficult to pass.
Other causes of chronic constipation include anal fissures, bowel obstruction, colon cancer, narrowing of the colon, other abdominal cancers, rectal cancer, and problems with the nerves around the colon or rectum including Parkinson’s disease or autonomic neuropathy, difficulties with the muscles involved in elimination, or having a condition that affects hormones including diabetes or overactive thyroid.
If you experience persistent changes to your bowels, you should make an appointment with your doctor to identify the cause of your chronic constipation.