Constipation is a common complaint, especially in older adults. It results in millions of physician visits per year, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on laxatives. Untreated it can lead to serious morbidity and can be a contributing factor in mortality. A rational approach to the patient presenting with constipation includes a detailed history, general and focused physical examination, specific investigations, and appropriate therapy. Treatment should aim to address the underlying cause, as should the choice of laxative. In general, it is best to clear out hard stool in the distal bowel before using an aggressive oral regimen.
Key words: constipation, laxatives, older adults, opioids.