Constipation is a very common gastrointestinal disorder in many patients across the world.1
While it is not a life-threatening condition and can be managed at primary healthcare level, it is associated with a negative impact on the quality of life for many patients and has considerable economic costs associated with it.1
The impact of constipation on quality of life.2
There is growing evidence base that people suffering from constipation have a significantly impaired health-related quality of life (QoL) compared with unaffected people and that this impaired quality of life was comparable to that seen with conditions such as chronic allergies, diabetes and stable ulcerative colitis.2
Constipation can affect both mental and physical components of quality of life.2
In a US survey of 557 constipation patients of all ages, 52 % reported an impact on quality of life, while 69 % reported that constipation affected their performance at work or at school.
12 % reported that constipation had resulted in absence from work or school in the preceding month, with a mean non-attendance period of 2,4 days.2
The impact of constipation on physical health.3
In many cases, constipation may cause excessive straining when having a bowel movement and which can result in complications.
One of the most common complication is haemorrhoids4.
Nearly 3 out of 4 adults will have haemorrhoids from time to time. They may result from straining during bowel movements. Haemorrhoids may be inside the rectum (internal haemorrhoids) or they may develop under the skin around the anus (external haemorrhoids). Sometimes they do not cause symptoms but at other times they can cause itching in the anal region, discomfort or pain and bleeding during bowel movements.4
Occasionally, a clot may form in a haemorrhoid. These are not dangerous but can be extremely painful and may need to be lanced and drained.4
However, there can be other serious complications, for example:3
- Anal Fissure- Torn skin in the anus. A large or hard stool can cause tiny tears in the anus.
- Faecal Impaction- Stool that cannot be expelled. An accumulation of hardened stool that gets stuck in the intestines.
Rectal prolapse. Intestine that protrudes from the anus. Straining can cause a small amount of rectum to stretch and protrude from the anus.
- Avoid developing constipation
- Include plenty of high-fibre foods in the diet
- Eat fewer processed foods
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Stay as active as possible, exercise regularly
- Do not ignore the urge to pass stool
1: Sibanda M, Meyer JC, et al. Chronic constipation in adults. S Afr Pharm J. 2018;85(1):34-42.
2: Belsey J, Greenfield S, Candy D, et al. Systematic review: impact of constipation on quality of life in adults and children. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010;31:938–949.
3: Mayo Clinic. Constipation. Symptoms and causes. [Internet]. 2018. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/disease-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-2035 (Accessed October 2018).
4: Mayo Clinic. Hemorrhoids. Symptoms and causes. [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/disease-conditions/hemorrhoids/symptoms-causes/syc-20360268 (Accessed October 2018).