Causes of Constipation
Constipation can have a variety of simple causes such as an inactive lifestyle, poor diet, dehydration or fecal impaction. Life-threatening causes can occasionally occur such as bowel obstruction or colon cancer. See your doctor promptly for a full diagnosis.
Simple Causes: A variety of simple ailments can cause constipation, such as:
- Normal bowel habits. Some people have less frequent bowel movements, so infrequency of defecation does not always signal constipation.
- Dehydration. An inadequate level of hydration or fluid intake can cause dehydration, in virtually any age group, from babies to the elderly.
- Diet changes (Low-Fiber Diet). A diet with an inadequate level of fiber may cause constipation.
- Milk. The high levels of calcium in cow’s milk may cause constipation in babies and children.
- Inactive lifestyle. A lack of physical activity can contribute to constipation.
- Habitual. Children may hold back their bowel movements for various reasons, such as due to pain, anxiety over public toilets, or simply to keep playing. Adults also may defer toileting in some cases.
- Rectal pain (painful bowel movements). The patient may avoid bowel movements due to pain, which can cause constipation to occur.
- Medication side-effect
- Laxative over-use
- Enema over-use
Concerning Causes: Although not necessarily the most common causes, some of the causes that the doctor may be most concerned about include:
- Fecal impaction
- Hemorrhoids (these can both cause and result from constipation)
- Anal fissure
- Anorectal abscess
- Ulcerative proctitis
- Painful bowel movements (causing avoidance)
- Rectal disorder. Any disorder causing rectal pain may contribute to constipation.
- Anal disorder. Any disorder causing anal pain may underlie constipation.
Read more about: Rectal Pain.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Colorectal cancer. Constipation can be an early sign of cancer.
- Colon carcinoma
- Gastrointestinal obstruction
- Bowel obstruction
- Partial intestinal obstruction
- Bowel spasm
- Hirschsprung’s Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Liver cirrhosis
- Hepatic Porphyria
- Mesenteric artery ischemia
Nerve Disorders: Damage to the nerves of the bowel or rectal region can cause constipation. Some examples include:
- Nerve damage
- Hirschsprung’s Disease
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spinal Cord Lesion
Metabolic and Endocrine Disorders: Various disorders of the body’s chemical balance (especially in relation to water balance), metabolism or endocrine systems can cause constipation. Some examples include:
Other Causes: A number of other issues can cause constipation. Some examples include:
- Tabes Dorsalis
- Diagnostic test side-effect (e.g. barium test)
- Drug side-effect
- Narcotic drug abuse
- Prescription medication side-effect
- Recent abdominal surgery
- Radiation therapy
- Immobilization (e.g. during recuperation or hospitalization)
Similar Symptoms: See also causes of similar symptoms to constipation, such as:
Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.