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Constipation (Adult)

Constipation is bowel movements that are less frequent than usual. Stools often become very hard and difficult to pass. This may lead to abdominal pain and bloating. It may also cause painful bowel movements. Constipation may be due to a diet that’s low in fiber. Some medications, especially pain medications, can also cause it. Constipation may be treated with enemas, suppositories, laxatives or stool softeners. Your doctor will advise you which will work best for you. Follow the advice below to help avoid this problem in the future.

Home Care

Medication: Take any medicines as directed. Some laxatives are safe only for occasional use. Others can be taken on a regular basis. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

General Care:

  • Prescription pain medications can cause constipation. If you are prescribed pain medications, ask the doctor whether you should also take a stool softener.

  • A diet high in fiber with plenty of fluids helps to maintain regular, soft bowel movements. The following foods are good sources of dietary fiber:

    • Cereals and breads: Whole grain cereal with bran, oatmeal, rolled oats, whole grain breads

    • Fruits: All fruits (fresh and dried), raisins, prunes, apricots, berries, figs

    • Vegetables: Any fresh vegetables, especially peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, winter squash, green beans, cauliflower, lima beans, carrots

    • Other: Popcorn, brown rice

Drink plenty of water when you increase the amount of fiber you eat.

Follow Up

with your doctor or return to this facility if symptoms do not improve in the next few days. You may require further tests or a referral to a specialist.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)

  • Failure to resume normal bowel movements

  • Increasing abdominal or back pain

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Blood in the stool

  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting

  • Unexpected vaginal bleeding


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