November 28, 2015

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What causes constipation?

Theoretically, constipation can be caused by the slow passage of digesting food through any part of the intestine. Most of the time, however, the slowing occurs in the colon.

Medications that cause constipation

A frequently over-looked cause of constipation is medications. The most common offending medications include:

  • Narcotic pain medications such as codeine (for example, Tylenol #3), oxycodone (for example, Percocet), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid);
  • Antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep) and imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Anticonvulsants such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Iron supplements
  • Calcium channel blocking drugs (CCBs) such as diltiazem (Cardizem) and nifedipine (Procardia)
  • Aluminum-containing antacids such as aluminum hydroxide suspension (Amphojel) and aluminum carbonate (Basaljel)

In addition to the medications listed above, there are many others that can cause constipation. Simple measures for treating the constipation (for example, increasing dietary fiber) caused by medications often are effective, and discontinuing the medication may not be not necessary. If simple measures don't work, it may be possible to substitute a less constipating medication. For example, a nonsteroidal ant-inflammatory drug or NSAIDs (for example, ibuprofen) may be substituted for narcotic pain medications, or one of the newer and less constipating antidepressant medications. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 7/16/2015
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