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Diagnosing Constipation and Assessing Treatment

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With direct healthcare costs over the $2 million mark and $800 million spent on laxatives yearly, constipation affects almost everyone at some point in some way. The causes of constipation are varied and individual. They include slow passage of stool, use of or a side effect of a medication including prescription drugs, OTC preperations, and herbal remedies, habits of toileting, blood hormone levels, and medical diseases/disorders.

Management of constipation requires exclusion of these causes to make a determination as to the reason behind the constipation. Traditional treatment of constipation has been directed at increasing gastrointestinal motility and stool frequency. 

Treatment for constipation includes a wide variety of options which must be individualized for each patient. Treatment includes patient education, lifestyle changes, including increased activity levels, dietary adjustments, medications, bio-feedback, and surgical procedures.

Several options may be needed to achieve relief for the chronic constipation patient. The need is for well-tolerated and effective long-term therapies for patients with constipation. Successful management of chronic constipation is patient specific and long term.

Janet Hannah has been an RN for 35 years, 30 of which have been in endoscopy. She has been certified since 1998, and is on the board of directors for  ABCGN. She is employed at Inove Loudoun ASC in Leesburg, Va., where she works in all areas of the department and is responsible for endo-unit competencies.

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