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Constipation Causes and Treatment

Updated on January 26, 2010

People often think they are constipated when they fail to pass a motion every day. In fact 'normal' bowel habits can vary from two or three times a day to two or three times a week, or even once a week in some individuals.

Difficulty in passing motions because the stools have become hard and dry is usually a result of eating too much junk food with too little fiber, or lack of exercise. It may also be due to repeatedly ignoring signals that the bowel needs emptying. The bowel becomes distended, the urge to eliminate is reduced and the problem becomes self-perpetuating.

Other causes of constipation include pregnancy and the side effect of many commonly used medications, for example codeine in cough mixtures and pain relievers.

To be medically significant, constipation must cause discomfort in the abdomen, pain around the anus, tears in the anus that bleed, piles or some other problem. Continuing constipation is sometimes an indication of an underlying disorder, for example an underactive thyroid gland, a tumour in the intestines, or diabetes. It can also indicate certain psychiatric conditions. It should not be ignored but assessed by a doctor.

Please Note:

  • The information provided on this page is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a registered physician or other healthcare professional.

  • The content of this page is intended only to provide a summary and general overview. Do not use this information to disregard medical advice, nor to delay seeking medical advice.

  • Be sure to consult with your doctor for a professional diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment.


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