Overview

Constipation is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It can mean that you're not passing stools regularly or you're unable to completely empty your bowel.

Constipation

Constipation is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It can mean that you're not passing stools regularly or you're unable to completely empty your bowel.

Constipation can also cause your stools to be hard and lumpy, as well as unusually large or small.

The severity of constipation varies from person to person. Many people only experience constipation for a short time, but for others, constipation can be a long-term (chronic) condition that causes significant pain and discomfort and affects quality of life.

What Causes Constipation?

It's often difficult to identify the exact cause of constipation. However, there are a number of things that contribute to the condition, including:

  • Not eating enough fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and cereals.
  • A change in your routine or lifestyle, such as a change in your eating habits.
  • Ignoring the urge to pass stools.
  • Side effects of certain medications.
  • Not drinking enough fluids.
  • Anxiety or depression.

In children, poor diet, fear about using the toilet and problems toilet training can all lead to constipation.

Who's Affected

Constipation can occur in babies, children and adults.  It's estimated that around 1 in every 7 adults and up to 1 in every 3 children in the UK has constipation at any one time.

The condition affects twice as many women as men and is also more common in older adults and during pregnancy.