Constipation is a very common condition that affects people of all ages. When you are constipated, you feel that you are not passing stools (faeces) as often as your normally do, or that you have to strain more than usual, or that you are unable to completely empty your bowels. Constipation can also cause your stools to be unusually hard, lumpy, large or small.
The severity of constipation can vary greatly. Many people only experience constipation for a short period of time with no lasting effects on their health.
For others, constipation can be a chronic (long-term) condition which causes significant pain and discomfort. Chronic constipation can also lead to complications, such as faecal impaction (where dry, hard stools collect in your rectum) or faecal incontinence (where you involuntarily leak liquid stools around solid impacted stools).
The treatment for constipation is usually very effective, although in some cases it can take several months before a regular bowel pattern is re-established.
Constipation affects twice as many women than men, and is more common in the elderly. Approximately 40% of pregnant women experience constipation during their pregnancy.