Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Chronic Constipation

Chronic Constipation

Overview

Constipation may come and go and can cause pain and discomfort. But when it happens for weeks, months, or years, you may have chronic constipation. Chronic constipation can affect the quality of your life. But you can work with your doctor to learn how to manage it with different treatments.

What causes it?

If there is no other health problem, the cause of chronic constipation is often related to two problems with your colon. It may be because your colon doesn't move stool along well. Or, once the stool gets to the rectum, you can't pass it out of your body easily. And those problems can be caused by:

  • Diet, especially if you don't eat enough fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
  • Not drinking enough fluids. Or drinking too much coffee or alcohol, which can act like diuretics.
  • Not getting enough activity.
  • Medicines, such as antidepressants, water pills (diuretics), iron, and pain medicines.
  • Changes in your daily routines from travel or changes in your school or job.
  • Getting older.
  • Stress.
  • A history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
  • Problems relaxing the anus or pelvic floor muscles.

Sometimes, no cause is found. In that case, your doctor may diagnose you with a type of irritable bowel syndrome.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms include having less than three bowel movements a week. You may also have straining or hard, painful stools. Some people also have bleeding from hemorrhoids or anal fissures. Or you may feel that you don't completely empty your bowels.

How is it treated?

There are many ways to treat chronic constipation, depending on what's causing it. Many people need to combine treatments. You may have already tried increasing activity or changing your diet.

Your doctor may also suggest some of these treatments.

Fiber.

Fiber helps keep water in your stool, making it softer and easier to pass.

Drinking more water.

Your body needs water to be able to pass stool.

Laxatives.

Some foods have a natural laxative effect, like prunes. There are also laxative medicines. One type (osmotic) holds water in the intestine to make it easier to pass stool. The other type (stimulant) increases movement in the intestine.

Stool softeners.

These keep stool soft.

Prescription medicines.

Some medicines may help with your bowels. But others can make constipation worse. Talk with your doctor about everything you take. You may be able to switch to a different medicine that will not cause constipation.

Biofeedback.

This can help retrain your pelvic floor muscles to know when to relax and when to push.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Constipation, Age 12 and Older

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details