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Constipation is a common health problem around the world. Although it is usually a symptom that occurs for a limited time, it can become a chronic problem and seriously affects the quality of life of people who suffer from it. Knowing the causes associated with its appearance, preventing them, carrying out a proper diagnosis and correctly using the different therapeutic tools available are essential measures in improving this symptom and the associated complications. 

Non-pharmacological measures are always the first step in treatment, and this means lifestyle changes.

Constipation is a subjective manifestation defined by a series of symptoms, including number of bowel movements, consistency and shape of the stool, and the effort and satisfaction obtained after the bowel movement.  

Types of Constipation

Generally speaking, constipation can be divided into primary or idiopathic constipation, and secondary or organic constipation.  

  • Primary constipation. This is established by clinical criteria after having excluded other causes, and is usually due to primary functional changes to the colon, the anus and the rectum. Within this group, the most common situation is known as “constipation with normal colonic transit”, in which it is possible to demonstrate that the time taken to transport the faeces through the colon is adequate. It is usually caused by stress or anxiety. In a lower percentage of cases, constipation is associated with slow transit and, in others, there is difficulty during defecation.  

  • Secondary constipation. This may be due to a wide range of metabolic, digestive or neurological diseases, and a multitude of drugs. 

How many people are affected?

Constipation is a very common medical issue in the general population, and it affects one in every 4-5 people throughout their lives. It can occur at any age, although its frequency increases with age, particularly after 65 years. It affects women more than men, and this gender difference becomes less frequent in people aged 65-70.  

Substantiated information by:

Faust Feu Caballé
Francesc Balaguer Prunes
Sabela Carballal Ramil

Published: 21 July 2020
Updated: 21 July 2020

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