Information for the public

Idiopathic constipation

Idiopathic constipation

Constipation is common in children and young people and symptoms can be very troublesome. The exact cause of constipation is usually not fully understood – it is called 'idiopathic constipation' if the condition that has caused it is unknown. Factors that are linked to constipation include pain, fever, how much the child or young person drinks, diet, psychological issues, toilet training, medicines being taken and a family history of constipation.

Some children and young people with physical disabilities, such as those caused by cerebral palsy, are more prone to idiopathic constipation as a result of impaired mobility. Children and young people with Down's syndrome or autism are also more prone to the condition. These children and young people should have the same tests and care as other children and young people.

It is important to identify and treat constipation early. Many people don't recognise the features of constipation. The features include:

  • poor appetite

  • reduced frequency of stools (poo)

  • soiling

  • abdominal pain

  • passing hard large poo or small pellets ('rabbit droppings')

  • painful bowel movements (pooing).

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