Diseases & Conditions


ConstipationCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Constipation?

Constipation can be defined as the disability of a person to engage in normal bowel movements because they are infrequent or it is hard to pass stool without a degree of pain. Painful defecation and disability to pass gas are often results of constipation. It is a general condition of the human body and has to be treated before it crops up into unnatural forms.

Causes of Constipation

There could be several causes for a single form of constipation. The cause of common constipation cannot be traced back to side effects of medicine. It could be food, the general dietary and evacuation habits. Decreased physical activity, hypothyroidism, medication side effects and inadequate fluid intake are often the reasons for age-related constipation. A low-fiber diet and low liquid intake can result in constipation. Pain killers, diuretics and antispasmodics can lead to this disorder as well as endocrine and metabolic problems in the body. It could also be due to psychological problems like fear of public restrooms and laziness.

Medication for Constipation

  • Bulk-forming laxatives are fiber supplements and include Metamucil, Fiberall, Citrucel, Konsyl, and Serutan which have to be taken with water so that they do not cause obstruction.
  • Stimulants aid in increasing muscle contractions in the intestines to facilitate bowel movement. Correctol, Dulcolax, Purge, and Senokot are common examples of stimulants.
  • Osmotics cause a special fluid flow movement in the colon through osmosis. Cephulac, Sorbitol, and Miralax are osmotics.
  • Colace and Surfak are examples of stool-softeners which help in moistening the stool and preventing dehydration.
  • Lubricants are used to grease the colon column to facilitate easier bowel movement. Fleet and Zymenol perform this function while mineral oil is a natural lubricant that can be used in place of drugs.
  • Milk of Magnesia and Haley’s M-O are saline laxatives because they replicate a sponge used to increase the moisture content of the colon.
  • Amitiza is a chloride channel activator that increases the intestinal fluid content of the body.

Prevention of Constipation

A well balanced diet with high fiber content and water is preferable. A certain degree of physical activity needs to be incorporated in your regular schedule to enable good bowel movement. Regular toilet breaks need to be present during the day to prevent constipation.

Risk factors of Constipation

It is mandatory for a person to include fiber and water in his diet because it helps in the normal bowel movement of the body. The following are conditions which act as risk factors for constipation:

  • Low-fiber diet and low fluid intake
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Subjecting the body to too much medication
  • Milk
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pregnancy, aging and travel
  • Dehydration
  • Metabolic and functional problems

Symptoms of Constipation

If a person’s general defecating habits alter from its natural path in the sense that he cannot pass stool for a long time, it becomes a primary symptom. It could develop into difficulty in bowel movements, pain in the abdomen and even rectal bleeding. Sometimes, in severe cases, it could lead to cramping of the abdominal region, nausea and vomiting. If it continues for a longer time, it could result in involuntary loss of weight.

Treatment for Constipation

The treatment can vary based on the cause and duration of the constipation that the person suffers from. Change in dietary habits and defecating habits are the primary treatment procedures adopted by the physician. Lifestyle changes include incorporation of physical activity in a patient’s routine. Use of laxatives might also be suggested. After a course of time, the patient needs to be weaned away from the use of laxatives. Some medications need to be discontinued if they are found to be the cause of constipation. Finally, even a surgical removal of the colon may be required for metabolic colon failure.

Types of Constipation

Different sources list different forms as types of constipation. An exhaustive list of the types of constipation can be found below:

  • Occasional constipation – the commonest form of the disorder
  • Chronic constipation – Perennial disorder
  • Travel-related constipation – generally food-related
  • Age-related constipation – comes with the ageing process
  • Pregnancy-related constipation – pressure on the natal and intestinal cords
  • Chronic idiopathic constipation – of unknown origin
  • Functional constipation – due to poor diet and lifestyle