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Treating Constipation - The Age Factor

Figures show that about 2.5 million of visits to the doctor every year are for treating constipation of older people and that the number of people suffering from constipation increases with age. Women, blacks, and people in lower socio-economic levels as well as those living in rural areas and in the Northern states are also more likely to suffer from constipation.

Although constipation is not a direct consequence of aging, it is often a refractory result of the normal things that are associated with age. Older people tend to be more sedentary and get less exercise thereby making them more prone to constipation problems. Also, medical treatments that are usually taken by older adults may cause constipation as a side effect. The bowel muscles also weaken as a person ages which makes it more difficult and less effective to move waste.

With over 30% of constipated patients being over 65 years of age, treating constipation is one of the frequent and sometimes major problems among the elderly.

Treating Constipation - Primary and Secondary Types

Treating constipation may vary for every patient and how the doctor wants to proceed with the treatment.

Nevertheless, constipation can be divided to primary and secondary types depending on the cause of the problem. The process of treating constipation can therefore also depend on the determined cause.

Primary constipation or functional constipation is caused by:

Normal Transit Constipation – normal passage rate of stool

Slow Transit Constipation – delayed passage of stool which may result in bloating and infrequent bowel movement
Anorectal Dysfunction – inefficient coordination of the pelvic musculature in bowel movement

With primary constipation, treating constipation for the aged population can begin with empiric treatment without the use of drugs. This may include adding dietary fiber, recommending simple exercises, and asking the patient to keep track o his/her food intake using a diary.

Treating constipation with primary causes may also include the use of laxatives if results for the initial treatment are not successful.

Secondary constipation on the other hand, is often caused by medical and psychiatric conditions. Tests for complete blood count, serum glucose, creatinine levels, thyroid stimulating hormones, and calcium may be necessary to determine this type of constipation. Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are also usually done for patients who are over 50 years old to rule out colon cancer.

Treating constipation of this type often include taking the patient out of the medications that’s causing the problem. If this is not possible, then a different brand or alternative drug can be given which will less likely cause constipation.

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