by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Constipation is a problem passing stool. Stool may be too hard or dry to pass. It is a common health problem.
Causes may be:
This problem is more common in older adults.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
Problems may be:
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you have:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your bowel movements. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may insert a gloved finger into the rectum to examine it. This is called a digital rectal exam.
Blood tests may be done.
Images may be taken of the colon. This can be done with:
Any underlying causes will be treated.
The goal of treatment is to promote bowel movements. Choices are:
People with severe symptoms may need surgery.
The risk of this problem can be lowered by:
American Gastroenterological Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Camilleri M, Kerstens R, et al. A placebo-controlled trial of prucalopride for severe chronic constipation. N Engl J Med. 2008;358(22):2344-2354.
Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Constipation in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/constipation-in-adults. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Constipation in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/constipation-in-children. Accessed February 9, 2021.
Paquette IM, Varma M, et al. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons' Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Management of Constipation. Dis Colon Rectum. 2016 Jun;59(6):479-492.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 2/9/2021