The constipation - The infrequent or difficult passing of hard, dry faeces. Constipation may be uncomfortable but in the short term is usually harmless.

The most common cause of constipation is insufficient fibre in the diet (see fibre, dietary), because fibre assists the propulsion of waste matter through the colon. Other common causes include lack of regular bowel movements due to poor toilet-training in childhood or repeatedly ignoring the urge to move the bowels. Constipation in elderly people may be due to immobility or to weakness of the muscles of the abdomen and the pelvic floor. Occasionally, constipation is a symptom of an underlying disorder. This is especially likely if it is part of a persistent change in bowel habits in someone over the age of 40, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as blood in the faeces, pain on moving the bowels, or weight loss. Conditions that may cause constipation include haemorrhoids, anal fissure, irritable bowel syndrome, and narrowing of the colon due to disorders such as diverticular disease or cancer (see colon, cancer of).

Self-help measures such as establishing a regular bowel routine, increasing the amount of fibre in the diet, and drinking more fluids are usually beneficial. Prolonged use of laxative drugs should be avoided, because this can impair the normal functioning of the colon.


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