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What is constipation?

Constipation is when you have hard, dry bowel movements, or you go longer than usual between bowel movements.

What causes constipation?

  • Not enough water or high-fiber foods
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Certain medicines, such as opioid pain medicine, antidepressants, or high blood pressure medicine
  • A medical condition such as hemorrhoids, diabetes, or a stroke

What are the signs and symptoms of constipation?

  • Difficulty pushing out your bowel movement
  • Pain or bleeding during your bowel movement
  • A feeling that you did not finish having your bowel movement
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Headache

How is constipation treated?

Medicine can help you have a bowel movement more easily. Medicines may increase moisture in your bowel movement or increase the motion of your intestines.

  • A suppository may be used to help soften your bowel movements. This may make them easier to pass. A suppository is guided into your rectum through your anus.
    Suppository for Constipation
  • Laxatives can help stimulate your bowels to have a bowel movement. Your provider may recommend you only use laxatives for a short time. Long-term use may make your bowels dependent on the medicine.
  • An enema is liquid medicine used to clear bowel movement from your rectum. The medicine is put into your rectum through your anus.

What can I do to prevent constipation?

  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink extra liquids to help soften and move your bowels. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Eat high-fiber foods. This may help decrease constipation by adding bulk to your bowel movements. High-fiber foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and beans. Your healthcare provider or dietitian can help you create a high-fiber meal plan. Your provider may also recommend a fiber supplement if you cannot get enough fiber from food.

  • Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity can help stimulate your intestines. Walking is a good exercise to prevent or relieve constipation. Ask which exercises are best for you.
    Walking for Exercise
  • Schedule a time each day to have a bowel movement. This may help train your body to have regular bowel movements. Bend forward while you are on the toilet to help move the bowel movement out. Sit on the toilet for at least 10 minutes, even if you do not have a bowel movement.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about your medicines. Certain medicines, such as opioids, can cause constipation. Your provider may be able to make medicine changes. For example, he or she may change the kind of medicine, or change when you take it.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have blood in your bowel movements.
  • You have a fever and abdominal pain with the constipation.
  • Your constipation gets worse.
  • You start to vomit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Constipation

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Mayo Clinic Reference Guides (External)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.