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Constipation

Constipation - What it is

Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints worldwide. Virtually everyone will experience constipation at some point in their life. 
Constipation is generally defined as having less than three bowel movements per week. Stools are usually hard, dry and difficult to expel. Some people experience pain from straining during bowel movements and may also experience bloating and abdominal discomfort. 

Constipation is a symptom and not a disease. In the vast majority of cases, it is temporary and not serious. Occasionally, it can be a sign of more serious underlying diseases and will warrant further investigations.


Constipation - Symptoms

Constipation - How to prevent?

Constipation - Causes and Risk Factors

  • Excessive or inadequate fibre and liquids in the diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Certain medications
  • Changes in lifestyle (e.g. pregnancy and travel)
  • Colorectal diseases
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Neurological diseases

Constipation - Diagnosis

Tests performed depend on the duration and severity of the patient’s symptoms. Patients above the age of 50 should undergo an evaluation of the colon, e.g. colonoscopy, to exclude colorectal cancer. 

In patients where the routine tests are normal but remain symptomatic, the following tests will be offered to assess the anal muscle tone, time for stools to empty and the completeness of stool emptying:
  • Anorectal manometry
  • Colonic transit marker study
  • Defaecating proctogram


Constipation - Treatments

Treatment depends on the cause, severity and duration of the patient’s constipation. All patients will receive conservative treatment with a combination of:
  • Dietary and lifestyle modifications
  • Laxatives
Only if the above do not yield significant improvements will more specialized treatment be offered in a graduated fashion, including:
  • Biofeedback exercises
  • Surgical correction of abnormal colonic movements (eg. rectopexy)
  • Surgical removal of the entire colon where all other treatment has failed


Constipation - Preparing for surgery

Constipation - Post-surgery care

Constipation - Other Information

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