Constipation

Definition

Constipation is infrequent and/or uncomfortable bowel movements. Stool is often hard and dry. This is a common gastrointestinal complaint.

Causes

Constipation has many causes, including:
  • Not enough fluid intake
  • Overuse of laxative medications
  • Too little exercise
  • Lengthy bed rest
  • Certain medications, including:
    • Pain relievers
    • Narcotics
    • Aluminum-containing antacids
    • Antidepressant and antipsychotic medications
    • Medications for epilepsy and Parkinson's disease
    • Antispasmodic medications
    • Iron supplements
    • Calcium channel blockers
  • Frequently delaying the need to have a bowel movement
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Spasm of the anal sphincter; due to painful anal fissures or hemorrhoids
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Irritable bowel syndrome —periods of constipation may alternate with episodes of diarrhea
  • Neurological diseases such as:
  • Intestinal disorders, including:
    • Scarring
    • Tumors
    • Cancer
    • Inflammation
  • Travel due to schedule changes, stress, and poor diet

Risk Factors

Constipation is more common in older adults.Risk factors include:
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Prolonged bed rest due to surgery or an accident
  • Diet that is high in fat and sugar and low in fiber

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