Constipation (Adult)


What it feels like: an inability to have regular and easy bowel move-ments, often associated with bloating.In adults, the most common and treatable causes of constipation arethe use of certain medications (see below), reliance on laxatives, anda diet high in carbohydrates and low in fiber.

Your Doctor Visit

What your doctor will ask you about: abdominal pain, blood instools, pain with defecation, diarrhea alternating with hard stool,weight loss, anxiety, depression.

Your doctor will also want to knowif you have ever had a barium enema or a colonoscopy, and what theyshowed.

Your doctor will want to know if you or anyone in your familyhas had any of these conditions: colitis, emotional problems, diver-ticular disease.

Your doctor will want to know what you normally eat, and howmany bowel movements you have each week.

Your doctor will want to know if you’re taking any of these med-ications: laxatives, enemas, sedatives such as Valium, opiates such asPercocet, antacids, anticholinergic medications such as Benadryl,calcium channel agents for high blood pressure.

Your doctor will do a physical examination including the fol-lowing: pushing on your abdomen, rectal exam, testing your stoolfor blood.


Cause: Medication use
Examples and/or symptoms: Anticholinergics such as Benadryl, antidepressants, calcium channel agents used forhigh blood pressure such as Norvasc

Cause: Laxative habit
Examples and/or symptoms: Overreliance on laxatives until youdepend on them to have a bowel move-ment (can lead to decreased defecationreflex, below)

Cause: Poor diet
Examples and/or symptoms: Constipation-causing diets are those withhigh amounts of carbohydrates and lowamounts of fiber (found in whole grainsand raw vegetables)

Cause: Inflammation of the anus
Examples and/or symptoms: Pain on defecation, anus is tender

Cause: Irritable bowel syndrome
Examples and/or symptoms: Chronic history of anxiety in which loosestools and lower abdominal pain alternatewith constipation

Cause: Decreased defecation  reflex
Examples and/or symptoms: A result of chronic use of laxatives or  habitual constipation

Cause: Partial bowel obstruction
Examples and/or symptoms: Recent change in bowel habits, can alsoalternate with loose stools