Treatment of constipation in older adults

Am Fam Physician. 2005 Dec 1;72(11):2277-84.

Abstract

Constipation is a common complaint in older adults. Although constipation is not a physiologic consequence of normal aging, decreased mobility and other comorbid medical conditions may contribute to its increased prevalence in older adults. Functional constipation is diagnosed when no secondary causes can be identified, such as a medical condition or a medicine with a side effect profile that includes constipation. Empiric treatment may be tried initially for patients with functional constipation. Management of chronic constipation includes keeping a stool diary to record the nature of the bowel movements, counseling on bowel training, increasing fluid and dietary fiber intake, and increasing physical activity. There are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription laxatives available for the treatment of constipation. Fiber and laxatives increase stool frequency and improve symptoms of constipation. If constipation is refractory to medical treatment, further diagnostic evaluation may be warranted to assess for colonic transit time and anorectal dysfunction. Alternative treatment methods such as biofeedback and surgery may be considered for these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cathartics / therapeutic use
  • Constipation / etiology*
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Humans

Substances

  • Cathartics