The infrequent or difficult passing of hard, dry faeces. Constipation is usually harmless. The most common cause is insufficient fibre in the diet (see fibre, dietary), because fibre assists the propulsion of waste matter through the colon. Other common causes include lack of regular bowel movements due to poor toilet-training in childhood or repeatedly ignoring the urge to move the bowels. Constipation in the elderly may be due to immobility or to weakness of the muscles of the abdomen and the pelvic floor. Self-help measures such as establishing a regular bowel routine, increasing the amount of fibre in the diet, and drinking more fluids are usually beneficial. Prolonged use of laxative drugs can impair the normal functioning of the colon. Constipation is occasionally a symptom of an underlying disorder, especially if it is part of a persistent change in bowel habits after the age of 40, or if it is accompanied by blood in the faeces, pain on moving the bowels, or weight loss. Conditions that may result in constipation include haemorrhoid s, anal fissure, irritable bowel syndrome, and narrowing of the colon in, for example, diverticular disease or cancer (see colon, cancer of).


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