Doctors categorize constipation into several types. Understanding the different types of constipation can help you choose the best treatment for your specific condition.

Constipation is a common digestive issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It can cause your bowel movements to become infrequent or difficult, leading to discomfort, pain, and frustration.

Depending on the cause of constipation and other factors, doctors separate this condition into several types. In this article, we’ll explore different types of constipation, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

The two main types of constipation are primary (also known as functional) and secondary. Primary constipation is due to problems that directly affect the function of your colon. Secondary constipation is typically a result of another condition.

Primary (functional) constipation

Doctors further divide primary constipation into several subtypes, depending on the specific cause of this condition. Let’s talk about them in more detail.

Normal transit constipation

Normal transit constipation is the most common type of constipation. If you have this type, your colon works as it should, producing stools at regular intervals, but you might still feel constipated, and your bowel movements can be less frequent.

People with normal transit constipation may have:

Slow transit constipation

Slow transit constipation is rare. It occurs when the movement of stool through the colon is slow, leading to difficulty passing stool and infrequent bowel movements. Nerve issues in the colon may contribute to this type of constipation.

Outlet constipation

Outlet constipation is a result of pelvic floor dysfunction. The pelvic floor includes muscles that support the bowel, bladder, and uterus. Issues with these muscles can cause difficulty with passing stools, along with other symptoms.

Idiopathic constipation

A doctor may say that you have idiopathic constipation when they can’t identify a reason for your symptoms. This common condition is usually long term, or chronic. People with idiopathic constipation may have difficult, infrequent, or incomplete bowel movements.

Secondary constipation

Secondary constipation can be due to an underlying medical condition, a medication that you’re taking, or your lifestyle.

Causes of secondary constipation may include:

Treatment for constipation varies depending on the underlying cause.

Normal and slow transit constipation treatment

These types of functional constipation are often treatable with lifestyle changes, such as:

You can also try taking fiber supplements or over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives. However, OTC laxatives shouldn’t be a long-term solution, as they can cause dangerous side effects.

Outlet constipation treatment

Treating outlet constipation due to pelvic floor damage usually requires physical therapy to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Other options may include medications or, in certain cases, surgery.

Idiopathic constipation treatment

To treat this type of constipation, a doctor may recommend certain prescription-strength laxatives or other medications and, in some cases, surgery.

Secondary constipation treatment

Treatment of secondary constipation usually targets the underlying cause. For example, you can relieve constipation that’s due to taking antidepressants by adjusting the dose of the medication or switching to another antidepressant.

If treating the underlying cause isn’t enough, or if it’s not an option, your doctor may focus on your constipation symptom relief. This will likely include:

Occasional constipation can affect anyone. However, don’t ignore this symptom if it persists for a long time or keeps coming back.

In addition, be sure to seek medical attention if your constipation is accompanied by alarming symptoms, like:

A healthcare professional can do a thorough evaluation to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Let’s go over some questions that people with constipation frequently ask their doctors.

How can I tell which type of constipation I have?

A doctor will help you determine your type of constipation. They’ll review your symptoms and medical history and perform diagnostic tests to help find the underlying cause.

What is the most serious form of constipation?

All forms of constipation can significantly affect your daily life, especially if they last for a long time. However, secondary constipation due to an underlying medical condition can be more serious, as it requires addressing the root cause to prevent further complications.

Whether it’s primary or secondary constipation, a combination of lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and medical interventions can help with your symptoms and their effects on your daily life.

If you’re experiencing persistent or severe constipation, don’t hesitate to speak with a medical professional.