Nursing Assessment Constipation

Nursing Assessment Constipation. Most nurses are able to provide an accurate diagnosis for constipation. This article shares a nursing assessment of constipation.


Constipation Symptoms, Diagnosis, Severity, and Treatment

Nursing Assessment Constipation

Constipation symptoms and treatment will vary depending upon the severity of the condition.

A nurse can perform a diagnosis of constipation, including its severity,  by considering the symptoms that exist, how long the symptoms have been present, and any underlying health conditions that may contribute to the constipation.


Acute constipation

While it may sound like a severe condition, acute constipation is actually the mildest form of constipation.

The word “acute” simply signifies constipation that comes on suddenly and without warning.

  • A person with acute constipation may experience pain, bloating, and straining when trying to go.

  • Any stool that is passed is hard, and evacuation may feel incomplete.

For acute constipation, most medical professionals will recommend a stool softener as an effective short term solution.

A change in diet or exercise may also be helpful in reversing the condition.


Chronic constipation

If constipation lasts for 3 months or longer, the condition is considered chronic.

The symptoms of chronic constipation are often similar to acute constipation, just continuing over a longer period of time.

  • Straining is required for at least a fourth of their bowel movements.

  • For 3 or more months they have fewer than 3 bowel movements a week.

  • Stool is frequently hard and requires a longer amount of time to pass.


When constipation is diagnosed as chronic, a stool softener is not enough to fix the problem.

Lifestyle changes are generally needed, including increased water and fiber intake, along with some exercise for those with a sedate lifestyle.

A nurse will look for the following underlying causes for chronic constipation

  • Eating disorders

  • Depression

  • Reaction to medications

  • Neurological conditions

  • Conditions that affect the GI tract

For more causes of chronic constipation, click here.  


Complications of chronic constipation 

Being constipated for an extended period of time can result in various complications such as:


Some of these conditions may require surgery. This points to the importance of dealing with constipation before surgery is required.


How a Magnesium Supplement May Help With Constipation

When used regularly, stool softeners may cause constipation to get worse. In comparison, a magnesium supplement is non-habit forming, and is designed for daily use. It can provide safe and effective relief without cramping.

Magnesium is a natural osmotic laxative that draws water into the colon. This, in turn, creates moist, soft and slippery stool that is easier to pass.

Taking a daily magnesium supplement may be very beneficial, since 4 out of 5 Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. This lack of magnesium in our diet may even be a cause of constipation.

Just 300 mg. of magnesium a day may provide effective and long-term constipation relief.


Conclusion, nursing assessment constipation

When assessing constipation, a nurse will take into account each constipation symptom as related by the patient, as well as noting when the various symptoms started.

This will give her an accurate picture as to whether or not the patient is actually constipated, as well as to the severity of the condition. From there, various treatment options can be considered.

(Return from Nursing Assessment Constipation to What is Constipation)

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