Constipation

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Constipation (also known as costiveness, dyschezia, and dyssynergic defaecation) refers to bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. Constipation is a common cause of painful defecation. Severe constipation includes obstipation (failure to pass stools or gas) and fecal impaction (see also Bowel obstruction).

Constipation is common; in the general population incidence of constipation varies from 2 to 30%.

Constipation is a symptom with many causes. These causes are of two types: obstructed defecation and colonic slow transit (or hypomobility). About 50% of patients evaluated for constipation at tertiary referral hospitals have obstructed defecation. This type of constipation has mechanical and functional causes. Causes of colonic slow transit constipation include diet, hormones, side effects of medications, and heavy metal toxicity.

Treatments include changes in dietary habits, laxatives, enemas, biofeedback, and surgery. Because constipation is a symptom, not a disease, effective treatment of constipation may require first determining the cause.

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