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 asunusually 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.

It's estimated that around one in every seven adults and up to one in every three 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.

When to see your GP

You may be able to treat constipation yourself by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle (see below). If these changes don't help and the problem continues, you should see your GP.

Also speak to your GP if you think your child might be constipated.

This includes gradually increasing your daily intake of fibre, making sure you drink plenty of fluids , and trying to get more exercise .

If these aren't effective, your GP may prescribe an oral Laxatives medicationthat canhelp you empty your bowels.

Treatment for constipation is effective, although in some cases it can take several months before a regular bowel pattern is re-established.

Giving yourself enough time and privacy to pass stools comfortably may also help, and you should try not toignore the urge to go to the toilet.



For most people constipation rarely causes complications, but people withlong-term constipation can develop:

  • haemorrhoids (piles)
  • faecal impaction (where dry, hard stools collect in the rectum)
  • bowel incontinence (the leakage of liquid stools)


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 13 Dec 2016