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Medications for Constipation

Other names: Difficulty passing stool; Irregularity of bowels

What is Constipation?

Constipation is the term used to describe difficulty or infrequency in passing feces (poo). When people are constipated, they have difficulty emptying their bowels or strain when they go to the toilet.

Most people empty their bowels at least once a day or every other day. Constipation is generally defined as having less bowel movements per normal per week.

What Causes Constipation?

Our bowel is the part of our gastrointestinal tract that removes solid waste (poo) left over from the food we eat from our body. When we pass feces it is called having a bowel movement or motion.

Constipation can either occur from a lack of fiber or fluid in the diet, or if the movements of the bowel slow down, due to disease, medications, hormones, or trauma, causing a longer transit for feces through the bowel.

Common causes of constipation include:

  • Anal fissures
  • Bowel cancer
  • Dehydration
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lack of fiber
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Laxative abuse
  • Medications such as opioids, diuretics, calcium channel blockers
  • Neurological problems caused by conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, brain or spinal cord injuries, or stroke
  • Pregnancy
  • Rectocele
  • Weak pelvic muscles.

What are the Symptoms of Constipation?

Symptoms of constipation may include:

 

  • Dry, hard, and lumpy feces (look like rabbit poo)
  • Passing fewer than three stools per week
  • Having to strain or push hard when having a bowel movement
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your bowel preventing you from having a bowel movement
  • Feeling like you can’t fully empty your bowels.

Other conditions, such as hemorrhoids (piles) or anal fissures may occur as a result of repeated straining to have a bowel motion. Untreated constipation may lead to fecal impaction (a hardened stool becomes lodged in the colon) or a rectal prolapse (which is when straining causes some of the intestine to protrude from the anus).

How is Constipation Diagnosed?

See your doctor if you are experiencing constipation and over the counter treatments have not worked. 

You should see your GP if you experience or observe the following:

  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Blood in your stools
  • Constipation that alternates with diarrhea
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason.

Your doctor will ask you questions about your history of constipation and what medications you take. They may perform a physical examination and further tests may be performed depending on what they think is the underlying cause of the constipation.

How is Constipation Treated?

Improving your diet, fiber and fluid intake may resolve mild forms of constipation. Medicines that treat constipation are called laxatives and there are many different types, such as:

  • Bulk-forming laxatives (such as fibers or psyllium). These absorb water in the bowel and swell to bulk out the stool making it softer and easier to pass
  • Emollient stool softeners (such as docusate). These moisten and lubricate the stool making it easier to pass
  • Osmotic laxatives (such as lactulose) draw fluid into the bowel and soften stools
  • Stimulant laxatives (such as senna or bisacodyl) which promote contraction of the intestines, promoting the movement of stools through the bowel.

People should eat more vegetables and fruit, exercise daily, reduce their consumption of constipation-causing foods (such as unripe bananas, milk, red meat), and exercise daily.

Drugs Used to Treat Constipation

The following list of medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment of this condition.

Drug name Rx / OTC Pregnancy CSA Alcohol Reviews Rating Popularity
lubiprostone C N 11 reviews
1.7

Generic name: lubiprostone systemic

Brand name:  Amitiza

Drug class: chloride channel activators

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

ClearLax C N 8 reviews
9.7

Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: Prescribing Information

Colace Micro-Enema N N Add review
0.0

Generic name: docusate systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Correctol B N 34 reviews
5.6

Generic name: bisacodyl systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Diocto N N Add review
0.0

Generic name: docusate systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Docuprene N N Add review
0.0

Generic name: docusate systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: Prescribing Information

Bisa-Lax B N Add review
0.0

Generic name: bisacodyl systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Citrate of Magnesia C N 5 reviews
10

Generic name: magnesium citrate systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Fleet Bisacodyl B N 1 review
10

Generic name: bisacodyl systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

methylcellulose N N 4 reviews
6.3

Generic name: methylcellulose systemic

Brand name:  Citrucel

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

Phillips' Cramp-free C N Add review
0.0

Generic name: magnesium oxide systemic

Drug class: minerals and electrolytes

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Citroma C N Add review
0.0

Generic name: magnesium citrate systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

glycerin C N 16 reviews
7.2

Generic name: glycerin systemic

Brand names:  Fleet Glycerin Suppositories Adult, Fleet Glycerin Suppositories Pediatric, Pedia-Lax Liquid Glycerin Suppositories, Sani-Supp …show all

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, Prescribing Information

Konsyl N N 1 review
8.0

Generic name: psyllium systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Mag-Oxide C N Add review
0.0

Generic name: magnesium oxide systemic

Drug class: minerals and electrolytes

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

polycarbophil N N 1 review
9.0

Generic name: polycarbophil systemic

Brand names:  FiberCon, Fiber Laxative, Fiber Lax, Equalactin, Fibertab …show all

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: interactions,

Purelax C N Add review
0.0

Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: Prescribing Information

sodium biphosphate / sodium phosphate C N 69 reviews
9.2

Generic name: sodium biphosphate / sodium phosphate systemic

Brand names:  Fleet Enema, Fleet Phospho Soda, Disposable Enema, OsmoPrep …show all

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, Prescribing Information

Uro-Mag C N Add review
0.0

Generic name: magnesium oxide systemic

Drug class: minerals and electrolytes

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Fiber Laxative N N Add review
0.0

Generic name: polycarbophil systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: interactions, side effects

GaviLAX C N Add review
0.0

Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: Prescribing Information

Gialax C N Add review
0.0

Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Laxmar N N Add review
0.0

Generic name: psyllium systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

PEG3350 C N 2 reviews
5.0

Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Reguloid N N Add review
0.0

Generic name: psyllium systemic

Drug class: laxatives

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

Topics under Constipation

Alternative treatments for Constipation

The following products are considered to be alternative treatments or natural remedies for Constipation. Their efficacy may not have been scientifically tested to the same degree as the drugs listed in the table above. However there may be historical, cultural or anecdotal evidence linking their use to the treatment of Constipation.

Legend

Rx Prescription Only
OTC Over the Counter
Rx/OTC Prescription or Over the Counter
Off Label This medication may not be approved by the FDA for the treatment of this condition.
Pregnancy Category
A Adequate and well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy (and there is no evidence of risk in later trimesters).
B Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.
C Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
D There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
X Studies in animals or humans have demonstrated fetal abnormalities and/or there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, and the risks involved in use in pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits.
N FDA has not classified the drug.
Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Schedule
N Is not subject to the Controlled Substances Act.
1 Has a high potential for abuse. Has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. There is a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
2 Has a high potential for abuse. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. Abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
3 Has a potential for abuse less than those in schedules 1 and 2. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
4 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 3. It has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 3.
5 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 4. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 4.
Alcohol
X Interacts with Alcohol.

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Further information

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