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What is constipation?

Constipation is a common problem. It means either going to the toilet less often than usual to empty the bowels, or passing hard or painful poo (also called faeces, stools or motions).

What are the symptoms of constipation?

The symptoms of constipation may include:

  • Feeling like you still need to have a bowel movement even after you’ve had one
  • Feeling like your intestines or rectum are blocked
  • Having hard, dry stool that is difficult to pass
  • Having fewer than 3 bowel movements in a week
  • Straining to have a bowel movement constipation?

What are the causes of constipation?

Known causes include the following:

  • Not eating enough fibre .
  • Not drinking much may make constipation worse.
  • Some special slimming diets are low in fibre, and may cause constipation.
  • Some medicines can cause constipation as a side-effect. Examples are painkillers (particularly those with codeine, such as co-codamol, or very strong painkillers, such as morphine), some antacids, some antidepressants (including amitriptyline) and iron tablets, but there are many others.
  • Various medical conditions can cause constipation. For example, an underactive thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome, some gut disorders, and conditions that cause poor mobility, particularly in the elderly.
  • Pregnancy. About 1 in 5 pregnant women will become constipated.

Unknown cause (idiopathic)

Do I need any tests?

Tests are not usually needed to diagnose constipation, because symptoms are often typical.

What are the treatments for constipation?

The treatment depends on what is causing your constipation. For most people, eating a healthy diet, getting enough fiber, exercising regularly, and drinking enough fluids are the keys to clearing up constipation.Treatment with a laxative is needed only if the lifestyle measures above do not work well. It is still worth persisting with these methods, even if you end up needing to use laxative


  • Anal fissure (a tear in the skin around the anus)
  • Fecal impaction (when stool becomes too large for you to pass on your own)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Rectal prolapse (when the act of straining to have a bowel movement pushes a small piece of the intestine out of the anus)