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Constipation in elderly – causes, types & risk factors

Constipation is a very common condition among elderly. It is known fact that elderly are having five times more chances to get constipation and its related disorders compared to younger adults. The constipation is defined as defecation less than 3 times a week or straining on defecation at least quarter of the time. Many people consider defecation every day as a sign of good health but this is not necessarily the case.

There are two types of constipation – functional and rectosigmoid outlet delay. It is not known the prevalence of the constipation. In the United States of America exist a distinct geographic distribution and it suggest that 3 global environmental factors – low socio – economic status, colder temperature and rural living.


Constipation in elderly

There are different factors which can lead to constipation in elderly, such as poor bowel habits, the use of certain drugs to treat other medical conditions, lack of exercise, lack of adequate fluids in the diet and poor diet. Also, there is a psychological angle and many older adults are excessively concerned about their bowel movements and constipation which is frequently an imaginary ailment. Also, there are some studies in which are said that single or widowed older adults have a lack of interest in eating. This leads to over use of convenience foods which are often low in fiber. It is known that the loss of teeth can make eating regular meals difficult.

This is a reason why older people choose soft and processed foods which are low in fiber. Also, many older adults suffer from stress incontinence and urinary incontinence. They take inadequate fluids to avoid the urinating. Also, these fluids are deficient in the diet of elderly people if they are not eating balanced or regular meals. It is known that the water and other fluids add bulk to the stools so they can give you a relief from the constipation and at the same time, they make stools soft.

The prolonged bed rest or being bed ridden after an accident or during the illness is also a major cause for constipation in elderly people. The lack of movement and the lack of exercise can cause constipation in older adults. Those drugs which are prescribed for several medical conditions can lead to constipation in elderly.

Some of these drugs are anti – Parkinsonism drugs, diuretics, antihistamines, antacids containing aluminum or calcium and antidepressants. Many older people have a fear for constipation and this factor in some cases leads older people to depend heavily on stimulant laxatives. These laxatives are making habits in older people so they depend on them and as the time passes, the natural mechanisms fail to work without the help of drugs. Also, the habitual use of enemas can lead to a loss of the normal bowel movements.


Here are types of constipation among elderly

  • Pelvic – floor dysfunction: In this type, there are problems in the muscles of the pelvic floor or around the anus. These people have a poor ability to coordinate these muscles during defecation. They have a feeling of incomplete evacuation. There is an overlap of the pelvic – floor dysfunction with the slow – transit colon.
  • Slow – transit constipation: This type of constipation is more commonly seen among women. These women have straining to defecate, limited urgency and infrequent bowel movements. Also, the colonic movements are slow.
  • Normal transit constipation: This is the most common type of the constipation. In this type the stool is passing through the colon at a normal rate but patients perceive difficulty evacuating their bowels. This is often happening along IBS with constipation. The primary distinction between chronic constipation and IBS is the abdominal discomfort or pain seen in irritable bowel syndrome.

Risk factors

There are some factors which can increase the risk of constipation in elderly, such as

  • You are female
  • You are African – American
  • You have poor socio – economic status
  • You are making less exercises
  • You have low calorie intake
Ramesh Kumar
Ramesh Kumar
Dr. Ramesh kumar, BAMS is naturopathy doctor who is well versed with health benefits of all fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants


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