Saanichton, BC

Dr. Miguel A. Lipka


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Although bowel movement frequency varies greatly for each person, if more than three days pass without a bowel movement, the contents in the intestines may harden, making it difficult or even painful to pass. Straining during bowel movements or the feeling of incomplete emptying also may be considered constipation.

Constipation is common. In the general population incidence of constipation varies from 2 to 30%.

Constipation is a symptom, not a disease, and can be caused by many factors. The most common are poor diet and lack of exercise. Other causes include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Laxative abuse
  • Travel
  • Specific diseases
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Loss of body salts
  • Nerve damage

A variety of medications also can cause constipation, such as:

  • Pain medications, especially narcotics
  • Antacids that contain aluminum
  • Antispasmodic drugs
  • Antidepressant drugs
  • Tranquilizers
  • Iron supplements
  • Anticonvulsants for epilepsy
  • Antiparkinsonism drugs
  • Antihypertensive calcium channel blockers

Each individual may experience symptoms of constipation differently. However, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • The inability to have a bowel movement for several days or passing hard, dry stools
  • Abdominal bloating, cramps or pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

Treatments include changes in dietary habits, laxatives, enemas, biofeedback, and surgery. Because constipation is a symptom, not a disease, effective treatment of constipation may require first determining its cause.

Constipation is easier to prevent than to treat. Maintaining adequate exercise, fluid intake, and a high fiber diet is recommended.

Click here for additional information on Constipation in Children.