Constipation as a Side Effect of Medications


Filed under Health & Wellness

It’s a problem no one wants to talk about, much less admit they are dealing with, but according to the American Journal of Gastroenterology, constipation is a common gastrointestinal complaint affecting more than 65 million Americans. That’s double the number of people who suffer from seasonal allergies.

Adults over the age of 50 are particularly susceptible since constipation is a side effect of many medications. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 90 percent of adults 50 and older take medications daily, and nearly half of them are on at least 5 different medicines.

“Constipation is a symptom, not an illness. However, it’s important for patients to question their physician or pharmacist about the prescriptions they are given and what to do if they suspect constipation is a side effect. Most constipation is temporary and easily treated,” says Dr. Cynthia Yoshida, a gastroenterologist and former associate professor of clinical internal medicine at the University of Virginia.

She points out the number one doctor-prescribed laxative, MiraLAX, is an option available to everyone with occasional constipation since it is now only available over the counter. However, before deciding on any treatment option, she recommends you ask yourself these questions:

1. What is constipation? According to the National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse, constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week with stools that are hard, dry, small in size and difficult to eliminate. “Many people assume they are constipated if they don’t have a bowel movement every day,” says Dr. Yoshida, “but bowel movement habits are personal and can vary greatly. What’s important to look for is significant or prolonged change.”

2. What causes constipation? As food moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water from the food and what remains becomes “stool.” Muscle contraction in the colon then pushes the stool toward the rectum. By the time the stool reaches the rectum, it is solid because most of the water has been absorbed.

3. What medicines am I taking? Dr. Yoshida advises consumers to make a list of all the medications they are taking and share it with their doctor or pharmacist, who will be able to tell them if constipation is a side effect of a single drug, or of a combination of medications they are taking. If this ends up being the case, your doctor may be able to switch you to different medications that don’t have constipation as a side effect.

4. How is constipation treated? Although treatment depends on the severity and duration of the constipation, in most cases a mild laxative taken orally will bring relief.

Dr. Yoshida acknowledges that talking about constipation can be uncomfortable, but she recommends asking your doctor or pharmacist these four simple questions to help you become your own best advocate for receiving appropriate care.

Article courtesy of ARA Content

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