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Understanding constipation in adults

02 December 2021
9 min read
Volume 32 · Issue 12

Abstract

Constipation is a common problem which can affect any age and ethnicity and is a frequent reason for patients to seek advice from health professionals. Margaret Perry looks at the risk factors, patient management and potential complications

Constipation is a common problem which can affect any age and any ethnicity and is a frequent reason for patients to seek advice from health professionals. Symptoms can vary widely from mild to severe and can impact on quality of life. Given the frequency of its occurrence, it is very likely that nurses and non-medical prescribers will be asked for advice by patients. This article will therefore look at risk factors, patient management and potential complications and hopes to provide useful information for any clinicians who may be approached for advice and guidance in dealing with this condition.

Constipation is an unpleasant problem, that, like many other conditions, can occur at any age, but has a higher incidence among older adults, with elderly females more likely to suffer from severe constipation (Vazquez Roque and Bouras, 2015). There are a number of definitions but the condition is generally defined as defecation that is unsatisfactory because of infrequent stools, difficulty passing stools, or the sensation of incomplete emptying (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence [NICE], 2021a). Statistics indicate that each GP will see approximately 6.3 people for the problem per week (Bowel Interest Group, 2019). Given the prevalence of this condition, it is highly likely nurses will be asked for advice by their patients. This article therefore hopes to give an insight into causes, treatment and management, with the aim of increasing confidence among general practice nurses who treat patients affected by this common problem.

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