Treatment of chronic constipation is an integral part of clinical gastroenterology worldwide. Many patients experience physical and mental issues because of constipation, since it has a major effect on their everyday life and health. If we fail to treat constipation actively, it often leads to adverse consequences. Although only a minority of patients seek medical help, most of them take prescription medications or other remedies to relieve the problem.
Constipation has numerous causes that are either functional or organic. Organic constipation is caused by specific disorders or medical conditions. Functional constipation, which is much more common, is a disorder characterised by hard or lumpy stool, straining, the feeling of incomplete bowel emptying, and fewer bowel movements in the absence of obvious organic or structural conditions.
Increasing numbers of people have problems with slow digestion and constipation. According to some estimates, 2 to 30% of adults suffer from functional constipation. In Europe, up to 17% of the population experiences this problem.
People often ignore constipation, thinking it will go away on its own. However, any delay in addressing constipation can lead to a worsening of the condition and prolonged treatment. When symptoms first occur, we should determine whether constipation is functional or organic in order to choose the appropriate treatment. Lifestyle and diet changes are always the first step in treatment, usually followed by osmotic laxatives.
If not treated from the start, problems can escalate to chronic constipation after a period of months and become much more difficult to alleviate. The consequences of constipation are both short- and long-term.
Short-term consequences of constipation include abdominal bloating and pain, mucous or blood in stool, and the feeling of the urgent need for a bowel movement. Long-term consequences of constipation are much more adverse: hemorrhoids (swollen veins in the anus and lower rectum), anal fissures, or rectal prolapse.
On top of this, constipation reduces the quality of life and can be linked to a decline in activity and work productivity, as well as anxiety and depression.