Constipation results in bowel movements that are infrequent, difficult, and painful. People who are constipated may go to the bathroom as little as one or two times a week. The stool they pass may be hard or pellet-like. Pain and excessive straining during defecation are common among people who suffer from constipation. Some report swelling in the abdomen and a feeling of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement.
Constipated children often have infrequent, hard and painful stools. They may also have stool incontinence that can occur rarely or frequently, or very large stools that fill up the toilet bowl.
Although constipation can affect all age groups, it tends to be more common in older adults. People 65 years of age and older account for the vast majority of doctor visits for constipation. The elderly have a higher incidence of medical problems that cause constipation.
In all adult age groups, constipation occurs more frequently in women, with elderly women being the top users of laxatives.
Risk factors in children include a history of painful defecation and trouble toilet training. Other types of stress can bring on the problem, too. Children who do not eat a well-balanced diet that includes high-fiber fruits and vegetables are also at risk for developing constipation.
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