Constipation is a condition in which a person has difficulty passing stools, or the stools are hard and dry. It is generally defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. Causes of constipation can include a low-fiber diet, lack of physical activity, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions such as thyroid disorders or nerve damage in the colon or rectum. It can also be symptom of certain illnesses. Symptoms of constipation include infrequent bowel movements, hard or small stools, difficulty passing stools, and abdominal pain or discomfort. Treatment options include increasing fluid and fiber intake, exercise, and over-the-counter laxatives.

It's also worth noting that constipation can be a different experience for different people, and there is not a one-size-fits-all definition of it. Some people may experience it differently such as having bowel movements that are infrequent or difficult to pass. While others may experience it as feeling like they cannot completely empty the bowel.

Risk factors

There are several factors that can increase a person's risk of developing constipation, these include:

  • Diet: A diet low in fiber and high in processed foods can contribute to constipation.
  • Lack of physical activity: People who have sedentary lifestyles are more likely to experience constipation.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as painkillers, antidepressants, iron supplements, and blood pressure medications can cause constipation as a side effect.
  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can cause the stools to become dry and difficult to pass.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), thyroid disorders, diabetes, and neurological conditions can increase the risk of constipation.
  • Pregnancy: Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy can slow down the muscles in the intestines, leading to constipation.
  • Aging: As people age, their bodies may produce fewer digestive juices and the muscles in the intestines may not contract as efficiently.
  • Chronic constipation: Consistently having difficulty with bowel movements can lead to chronic constipation.
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement: When someone puts off using the toilet or waits too long to respond to the urge to have a bowel movement, the longer the stools stay in the colon, the more water is absorbed from the stools, leading to harder stools that are more difficult to pass.

It's worth noting that it's not uncommon for people to experience constipation and it doesn't always indicate an underlying health problem. However, if the constipation persists for long periods of time or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is recommended to see a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management.


There are several treatment options for constipation, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Some common treatment options include:

  • Diet and lifestyle changes: Eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting regular exercise can help relieve constipation. This might include increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and drinking at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water a day.
  • Over-the-counter laxatives: There are several types of laxatives available, including bulk-forming laxatives, stool softeners, lubricant laxatives, and stimulant laxatives. It's recommended to talk with a healthcare professional before taking any laxatives to ensure you are taking the right one and to be aware of the potential side effects.
  • Probiotics: Some studies suggest that taking probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria, may help to relieve constipation.
  • Biofeedback therapy: It's a technique that teach people to recognize and control the muscles used for defecation, and has been shown to be effective for some people with constipation caused by muscle dysfunction.
  • Prescription medications: If other treatment options have been ineffective, your doctor may prescribe medication to help with constipation. These medications include laxatives, stool softeners, and medications that help stimulate the muscles in the intestines.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary if constipation is caused by an underlying medical condition such as a blockage in the colon or rectum.

It's worth noting that, often, the best approach is a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. In cases of severe or chronic constipation, it's recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management, as there might be an underlying condition causing it.


The prognosis for constipation after treatment is generally good, especially when the underlying cause can be identified and addressed. With proper treatment, most people with constipation are able to alleviate their symptoms and return to normal bowel movements.

Lifestyle changes, such as increasing fiber and fluid intake, getting regular exercise, and managing stress, can help prevent constipation from recurring. Over-the-counter laxatives and probiotics can also be used as needed, but it's important to talk to a healthcare professional before taking any medication.

If a medical condition is causing constipation, treating the underlying condition can help improve the prognosis. For example, if constipation is caused by an underactive thyroid, treating the thyroid disorder will likely help relieve constipation symptoms.

Chronic constipation may take longer time to relieve the symptoms, but it is manageable with regular and proper treatment as well as lifestyle modification. In some cases, it may take longer for the person to feel the full effects of treatment, but with persistence, the symptoms of constipation can usually be controlled.

It's important to remember that the best approach is to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs, and to be persistent in following that plan.