Review article: diagnosis, management and patient perspectives of the spectrum of constipation disorders

Amol Sharma, Satish S.C. Rao, Kimberly Kearns, Kimberly D. Orleck, Scott A. Waldman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic constipation is a common, heterogeneous disorder with multiple symptoms and pathophysiological mechanisms. Patients are often referred to a gastroenterology provider after laxatives fail. However, there is limited knowledge of the spectrum and management of constipation disorders. Aim: To discuss the latest understanding of the spectrum of constipation disorders, tools for identifying a pathophysiologic-based diagnosis in the specialist setting, treatment options and the patient's perspective of constipation. Methods: Literature searches were conducted using PubMed for constipation diagnostic criteria, diagnostic tools and approved treatments. The authors provided insight from their own practices. Results: Clinical assessment, stool diaries and Rome IV diagnostic criteria can facilitate diagnosis, evaluate severity and distinguish between IBS with constipation, chronic idiopathic constipation and dyssynergic defecation. Novel smartphone applications can help track constipation symptoms. Rectal examinations, anorectal manometry and balloon expulsion, assessments of neuromuscular function with colonic transit time and colonic manometry can provide mechanistic understanding of underlying pathophysiology. Treatments include lifestyle and diet changes, biofeedback therapy and pharmacological agents. Several classes of laxatives, as well as prokinetic and prosecretory agents, are available; here we describe their mechanisms of action, efficacy and side effects. Conclusions: Constipation includes multiple overlapping subtypes identifiable using detailed history, current diagnostic tools and smartphone applications. Recognition of individual subtype(s) could pave the way for optimal, evidence-based treatments by a gastroenterology provider.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1250-1267
Number of pages18
JournalAlimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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