Constipation and Fever: How Are They Related?

The two can happen at the same time—but it doesn't necessarily mean one caused the other.

The symptoms of constipation are pretty standard. They include:

  • Having fewer than three bowel movements per week
  • Having stool that's hard, lumpy, or difficult to pass
  • Feeling like you haven't passed all of your stool when you do go

All of these symptoms—though not entirely normal—are common. But what if your constipation is paired with something a little more worrisome, like a fever? Here's what you need to know about the connection between the two.

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Is It Possible for Constipation and Fever To Be Connected to One Another?

Constipation can't directly cause a fever, Rudolph Bedford, MD, gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told Health.

Fever is a response to an illness or infection, according to MedlinePlus. Your body is trying to kill off the bacteria or virus by creating a higher-than-normal temperature that makes it difficult for pathogens to survive. That higher body temperature also activates your immune system to get to work.

On the other hand, constipation is caused by your stool moving through your colon more slowly than usual, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). This slower movement could be caused by dehydration, a change in your diet, a lack of exercise, or certain medications, the American College of Gastroenterology says. The NIDDK also notes that delayed emptying of the colon or other functional gastrointestinal disorders (like irritable bowel syndrome) could be at the root of your bathroom issues too.

In the grand scheme of things, constipation and fever aren't directly related—so if a fever is present with constipation, it means there's an underlying cause for both. "Fever is a sign of some inflammatory process that's going on," Dr. Bedford said. And that means you should start working towards figuring out what's going on.

What Are Some Conditions Where Constipation and Fever May Occur Simultaneously?

One likely culprit could be diverticulitis, according to Dr. Bedford. Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form along the colon, according to MedlinePlus. Many people have them—this is a condition called diverticulosis—and they don't cause problems. But in some instances, bacteria can get trapped in these pouches and lead to infection and inflammation, which is then called diverticulitis. In addition to fever, diverticulitis can also cause pain on the left side of your abdomen, which can be severe and sudden or mild and increase over time. Some people experience nausea and vomiting, too, per the NIDDK. Diverticulitis requires antibiotics to treat, Dr. Bedford said, so it's not something you want to wait out.

Another illness that may cause a fever to coincide with constipation is appendicitis, which is when your appendix becomes inflamed. It's important to note that the most common symptom of appendicitis is extreme abdominal pain, per the NIDDK. However, it is possible for you to experience a fever as well as bowel issues such as constipation with appendicitis. So, if you have all three of those symptoms, you'll want to get them checked out as soon as possible, as appendicitis is a condition that requires immediate medical attention.

What To Do if You Have Constipation and a Fever at the Same Time

You'll want to first verify that you do indeed have an actual fever. "A lot of people feel feverish, hot chills, fatigued, when you feel sick, but it doesn't mean you're actually running at a higher temperature," Elana Maser, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and gastroenterologist at the Feinstein IBD Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Health. But if a thermometer reveals your temperature has spiked to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it's time to seek medical care.

Also, let your healthcare provider determine what's going on: You don't want to try to figure things out on your own. "If you have fever and constipation, you shouldn't be self-diagnosing," Dr. Maser said. Those two symptoms together aren't specific enough to help you narrow your diagnosis down, and whatever it is, you'll likely need medical treatment.

Once you get to a healthcare facility or hospital, you'll likely have a thorough workup and possibly even a computerized tomography (CT) scan to determine the source of your fever and constipation, and then treatment will proceed from there. Often, patients are able to be treated at home after seeking a medical opinion, but severe cases can require a hospital stay or surgery.

Fever and constipation can occur at the same time—but it doesn't necessarily mean constipation caused your fever. Instead, having both symptoms simultaneously usually means there's another underlying issue. The most important thing to do in that situation is not to delay treatment—check in with a healthcare provider quickly so they can figure out what's going on.

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