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Pharmacology. 1993 Oct;47 Suppl 1:216-23.

Clinical management of constipation.

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University of London, UK.


First, it is important to find out whether the patient is complaining of infrequent defaecation, excessive straining at defaecation, abdominal pain or bloating, a general sense of malaise attributed to constipation, soiling, or a combination of more than one symptom. Second, one must decide if there is a definable abnormality as a cause of the symptom(s). Is the colon apparently normal or is its lumen widened (megacolon)? Is the upper gut normal or is there evidence of neuropathy or myopathy? Is the ano-rectum normal or is there evidence of a weak pelvic floor, mucosal prolapse, major rectocele, an internal intussusception or solitary rectal ulcer? Is there any systemic component such as hypothyroidism, hypercalcaemia, neurological or psychiatric disorder or relevant drug therapy? Choice of treatment will depend on this clinical evaluation. The range of treatments available is: Reassurance and stop current treatment: Patients with a bowel obsession may take laxatives or rectal preparations regularly without need. Increase dietary fibre: Most cases of 'simple' constipation respond to increased dietary fibre, possibly with an added supplement of natural bran. Toilet training and altered routine of life: Young people particularly may need to recognise the call to stool and alter their daily routine to permit and encourage regular defaecation. Medicinal bulking agent: Ispaghula, methyl cellulose, concentrated wheat germ or bran, and similar preparations are useful when patients with a normal colon find it difficult to take adequate dietary fibre. These preparations increase the bulk of stool and soften its consistency. They may be useful for those patients with the constipated form of irritable bowel syndrome.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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