Indexed on: 01 May '07Published on: 01 May '07Published in: Digestive diseases (Basel, Switzerland)
Intestinal complaints are a frequent health concern for elderly people and their care providers.To explore the distinction between constipation and the subjective complaints in elderly people and to review the diagnosis, causes and treatment of constipation, fecal impaction, and fecal incontinence.Review of studies that give information on prevalence, causes, symptoms, and treatment of bowel problems in the elderly, excluding uncontrolled clinical observations.Self-reported constipation and laxative use increase with age and are more common among women, blacks and people of low socio-economic level. The patient's pharmacological history is fundamental, because medications are the cause of up to 40% of chronic constipation, and are often used inappropriately. The results of most laxative trials require cautious interpretation, but fiber and laxatives are more effective than placebo against constipation. Much additional research is needed to determine the most cost-effective method of treating intestinal complaints in the elderly.Bowel problems in older people have a considerable impact on the quality of life and have many contributory causes that are often amenable to treatment and management. Results of therapy can be good, leading to alleviation of suffering and the ability to lead a fuller life.