Constipation is a common clinical problem that comprises a constellation of symptoms that include excessive straining, hard stools, feeling of incomplete evacuation, use of digital maneuvers, or infrequent defecation. Although many conditions, such as metabolic problems, fiber deficiency, anorectal problems, and drugs, can cause constipation, when excluded functional constipation consists of two subtypes: slow-transit constipation and dyssynergic defecation. Some patients with irritable bowel syndrome may exhibit features of both types of constipation. The Rome criteria for functional constipation together with modifications proposed here for dyssynergic defecation may serve as useful guidelines for making a diagnosis. Recent advances in technology, together with a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms, have led to real progress in the diagnosis of this condition. Management options are limited, however, and evidence to support these treatments is only modest. The treatment is primarily medical; surgical options should be reserved for refractory disease and after careful diagnostic work-up. Although laxatives remain the mainstay of therapy, prokinetics that are colon-selective are optimal for treating patients with slow-transit constipation, but they are not yet available for clinical use. Recent controlled trials, however, are promising. Biofeedback therapy is the preferred treatment for patients with dyssynergia, but is not widely available. In the near future, user-friendly biofeedback programs including home therapy may facilitate wider use of these methods for patients with dyssynergic defecation.
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