Constipation - Possible Causes

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What are the causes of constipation?

There are many causes of constipation including:

  • Diets low in fiber. Fiber is vegetable material resistant to digestion that promotes soft stools by adding bulk to the stool and causing water to be retained in stool.
  • Side effects of medications such as narcotic painkillers, antidepressants, iron supplements, calcium channel blockers (medications for high blood pressure), and certain types of antacids.
  • Narrowing or blockage of the large intestine (colon) due to scarring from previous surgery, colon cancer or advanced diverticulosis.
  • Ineffective contraction or spasm of the colon's muscles due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other diseases of the colon's muscles.
  • Hormonal (endocrine) disturbances such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroid) and diabetes mellitus with nerve damage.
  • Neurologic conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and others.

Examples of common medications that can cause constipation:

  • Narcotic pain medications: codeine (Tylenol #3), oxycodone (Percocet), guaifenesin/hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and others
  • Antidepressants: amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep), fluoxetine (Prozac), and imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Anticonvulsants: phenytoin (Dilantin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Iron supplements
  • Calcium channel blockers (for example, diltiazem [Cardizem] and nifedipine [Procardia])
  • Antacids (for example, aluminum hydroxide [Amphojel] and aluminum carbonate [Basaljel])
Return to Laxatives for Constipation

See what others are saying

Comment from: allyboy, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: April 10

I've had constant constipation from age 16. I have tried over-the-counter laxatives, which, in order to be effective, I feel must be taken in high doses. I drink plenty of water and about 35 grams of fiber per day.

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