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Constipation or irregularity, is a condition of the digestive system where a person (or animal) experiences hard feces that are difficult to egest. It may be extremely painful, and in severe cases (fecal impaction) lead to symptoms of bowel obstruction. The term obstipation is used for severe constipation. Causes of constipation may be dietary, hormonal, anatomical, a side effect of medications (e.g. some painkillers), or an illness or disorder. Treatments consist of changes in dietary and exercise habits, the use of laxatives, and other medical interventions depending on the underlying cause.


The main causes of constipation include:

  • Hardening of the feces
    • Improper mastication (chewing) of food
    • Insufficient intake of dietary fiber
    • Dehydration from any cause or inadequate fluid intake
    • Medication, e.g. diuretics and those containing iron, calcium, aluminium
  • Paralysis or slowed transit, where peristaltic action is diminished or absent, so that feces are not moved along
    • Hypothyroidism (slow-acting thyroid gland)
    • Hypokalemia
    • Injured anal sphincter (patulous anus)
    • Medications, such as loperamide, opioids (e.g. codeine & morphine) and certain tricyclic antidepressants
    • Severe illness due to other causes
    • Acute porphyria (a rare inherited condition)
    • Lead poisoning
  • Dyschezia (usually the result of suppressing defecation)
  • Constriction, where part of the intestine or rectum is narrowed or blocked, not allowing feces to pass
    • Stenosis (Strictures)
    • Diverticula
    • Tumors, either of the bowel or surrounding tissues
    • Retained foreign body or a bezoar
  • Psychosomatic constipation, based on anxiety or unfamiliarity with surroundings.
    • Functional constipation
    • Constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome, characterized by a combination of constipation and abdominal discomfort and/or pain[4]
  • Smoking cessation (tobacco smoking has a laxative effect)[5]
  • Abdominal surgery, other types of surgery, childbirth

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