Constipation refers to bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. The stool is often hard and dry. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, and feeling as if one has not completely passed the bowel movement. Complications from constipation may include hemorrhoids, anal fissure or fecal impaction. The normal frequency of bowel movements in adults is between three per day and three per week. Babies often have three to four bowel movements per day while young children typically have two to three per day.
Constipation has many causes. Common causes include slow movement of stool within the colon, irritable bowel syndrome, and pelvic floor disorders. Underlying associated diseases include hypothyroidism, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, colon cancer, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Medications associated with constipation include opioids, certain antacids, calcium channel blockers, and anticholinergics. Of those taking opioids about 90% develop constipation. Constipation is more concerning when there is weight loss or anemia, blood is present in the stool, there is a history of inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer in a person’s family, or it is of new onset in someone who is older.