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Boggio Family of Pharmacies

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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Very rarely does a day go by where there isn’t a question about constipation from a patient stopping by the pharmacy. Most patients want to know what they should take that is available without a prescription.

Constipation is a symptom that occurs when waste moves too slowly through the body, resulting in stool that is dry and hard. This often makes it difficult and painful to pass.

Some medications such as antidepressants, water pills, and certain pain killers (such as Oxycontin and Codeine) may cause constipation.

The frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person, from as little as twice a week to a couple of times a day, and is affected by diet, medications, and exercise.

If you are having trouble going to the washroom, the first thing a pharmacist will usually recommend is increasing the amount of fibre in the diet by eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables. In addition, drinking at least 8 glasses of water will minimize constipation.

If these suggestions do not work, there are several options available to you.

For  short-term treatment of constipation, ( if you haven’t been to the washroom in several days), a saline laxative such as Milk of Magnesia can be tried.  Alternatively glycerin suppositories work quite well.  If symptoms still do not resolve you could consider an enema with the advice of your physician.

Stimulant laxatives such as Dulcolax and Senokot can also be used to maintain regularity.  If you are on long term narcotic therapy you may need to take these types of medications as long as you are taking the narcotics.

For long-term treatment of constipation, bulk-forming agents such as Metamucil or Prodiem Plain can be used. These bulk-forming agents increase the stool weight, allowing the stool to pass through the body faster and cause more frequent bowel movements. These agents typically take about 12-72 hours to take effect and are usually safe to use for long periods of time. When taking bulk-forming agents, it is recommended to drink lots of fluid.

For young children there are a few options.  For immediate relief a pediatric glycerin suppository can be tried.  For chronic long term management PEG 3350 is often prescribed, or is available over-the-counter as LAX-A-Day.  You should consult your family doctor however if you want to try an oral medication for a child suffering from chronic constipation.

If you are not having trouble going to the washroom, but you find the stool to be too hard and painful to pass, the pharmacist may recommend a stool softener such as Colace (docusate sodium) that will soften the stool for increased comfort.

Before deciding on a therapy, talk to a pharmacist and they can help you decide on a treatment that is right for you.

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