Risk for constipation

Risk for constipation

Domain 3. Elimination and exchange
Class 2. Gastrointestinal function
Diagnostic Code: 00015
Nanda label: Risk for constipation
Diagnostic focus: Constipation

Nursing diagnosis is all about anticipating the patient’s health problems and taking measures to prevent them in the first place. Risk for constipation is one such potential nursing diagnosis which can be predicted beforehand based on the patient’s history and other factors. A nursing diagnosis of Risk for constipation means that the patient is at a high risk of experiencing constipation in the near future, but steps can be taken to prevent it.

NANDA Nursing Diagnosis Definition

According to NANDA International (NANDA-I), Risk for constipation is defined as an “increased likelihood of constipation developing or continuing.” In simpler words, this means that due to certain factors, the patient is very likely to experience constipation in the immediate or distant future. It can be prevented by creating an individualized treatment plan specific to the patient’s condition and changing their lifestyle approaches.

Risk Factors

The following conditions can increase the risk for constipation:

  • Low Fiber Diet: Eating a diet low in fiber prevents sufficient water absorption from stools, leading to their hardening and increasing the risk for constipation.
  • Inadequate Fluid Intake: Not drinking enough fluids also has the same effect, since it causes insufficient liquefaction of stools.
  • Aging: As age increases, the number of baroreceptors in the gut wall diminishes, inducing mild constipation.
  • Dehydration: Without adequate fluids, the rectal walls become stiff, resulting in difficulty of passing stools.
  • Medications: Certain medications like opioids, calcium channel blockers and antacids can lead to dryness of stools.

At-Risk Population

Certain populations are more prone to constipation than others, including the following:

  • Older Adults: Aging is linked with a higher risk of suffering from constipation.
  • Patients with Chronic Diseases: Patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism, and stroke often suffer from constipation.
  • Children: Inappropriate diets, fear of defecation, impermanent toilet habits, and certain medications can lead to constipation in young children.
  • Pregnant Women: Due to changes in hormones, pregnant women often face constipation.
  • Frail/Elderly Individuals: This population, who often have poor diets, lack physical activity and take multiple medications, often suffer from constipation.

Associated Conditions

Along with constipation, the following associated conditions commonly appear:

  • Abdominal Pain: Hard stools could cause pain while they are being discharged.
  • Anal Fissures: If a person pushes too hard during defecation, they may develop anal fissures.
  • Hemorrhoids: Pushing hard could result in swollen veins in the rectum, known as hemorrhoids.
  • Rectal Bleeding: Friction between stools and the rectal walls may cause minor bleeding.
  • Electrolyte Imbalances: Suppressed digestion and poor hydration can lead to electrolyte imbalances.

Suggestions of Use

For patients at risk of constipation, healthcare professionals can suggest lifestyle modifications. These include:

  • Encouraging patients to increase their fluid intake.
  • Recommending a diet high in fiber-rich foods.
  • Promoting physical activities such as walking/jogging and yoga.
  • Advising patients to develop lifestyle habits like eating breakfast regularly.
  • Prescribing medications like laxatives and oral phosphate solutions if needed.

Suggested Alternative NANDA Nursing Diagnosis

The following alternative NANDA nursing diagnoses may also be used:

  • Deficient Knowledge related to Constipation Management: If the patient is not aware of the measures he/she can take to prevent constipation, this diagnosis may be suitable.
  • Impaired Social Interaction related to Uncomfortable Bowel Symptoms: Constipation can be embarrassing and can have a negative impact on the patient’s social interactions.
  • Ineffective Health Maintenance related to Constipation: If the patient does not seek medical advice or make efforts to improve his/her constipation, this diagnosis may be suitable.
  • Self-Care Deficit relating to Altered Bowel Habits: If the patient cannot perform regular bowel movements independently, this diagnosis may be suitable.
  • Risk for Activity Intolerance related to Uncomfortable Bowel Symptoms: Constipation can limit the patient’s physical activity, thereby increasing the risk for activity intolerance.

Usage Tips

When considering any of the above alternative nursing diagnoses, the following points should be kept in mind:

  • Check if the patient is indeed experiencing the particular condition or symptoms related to it.
  • If the patient is taking any medications, ask about their impact on constipation.
  • Encourage the patient to increase physical activities, maintain healthy diets, and avoid avoiding stress.
  • Recommend treatments such as digital evacuation or rectal irrigations if necessary.
  • Emphasize the importance of seeking medical advice from healthcare professionals during transition stages.

NOC Outcomes

The following NOC outcomes may be used when formulating a Nursing diagnosis of Risk for constipation:

  • Bowel Elimination: The patient is able to successfully pass stools with minimum difficulty.
  • Health Practices: The patient has adopted lifestyle practices which improve constipation and reduce the related risks.
  • Nutrition: The patient is able to maintain an appropriate diet high in fibers and fluids.
  • Risk Recognition and Control: The patient is correctly able to identify and manage individual risk factors for constipation.
  • Activity Tolerance: The patient is able to tolerate physical activities which helps reduce the risk for constipation.

Evaluation Objectives & Criteria

The following objectives and criteria may be used to evaluate the success of interventions and treatments:

  • Assess the patient’s diet and identify any food items which may worsen constipation.
  • Maximize the patient’s intake of fiber-rich foods.
  • Monitor the patient’s physical activity levels.
  • Encourage the patient to drink plenty of fluids.
  • Provide counseling to the patient about constipation and its associated factors.
  • In case of medication-induced constipation, advise the patient to consult their physician.

NIC Interventions

The following NIC interventions may be employed to manage Risk for constipation:

  • Complementary Therapy: Complementary therapies like massage can help relax the muscles surrounding the intestines and improve digestive processes.
  • Diet Management: Provide dietary guidance to the patient and recommend high-fiber diets.
  • Health Teaching: Advice the patient about the importance of drinking fluids, adopting physical activities, leading a stress-free life, and regularly scheduling checks-ups with a physician.
  • Medication Administration: Administer laxatives and other medications as advised by the physician.
  • Stool Softeners: Provide stool softeners and any other medications prescribed to the patient.

Nursing Activities

The following nursing activities may be performed to prevent and alleviate constipation:

  • Monitor the patient’s hydration level by measuring their intake of fluids.
  • Observe the patient’s diet and provide dietary recommendations to prevent constipation.
  • Recommend physical activities and lifestyle modifications to the patient.
  • Educate the patient and family members regarding diet, lifestyle choices, and healthcare management.
  • Explain to the patient why it is important to take their medications as prescribed.
  • Consult the patient’s doctor for additional medications or treatments.


To sum up, Risk for constipation is a potential nursing diagnosis which can be detected beforehand and preventive measures can be taken accordingly. Healthcare practitioners should advise the patient to adopt lifestyle modifications and sometimes medications, and should regularly assess the risk for further constipation.


  • What is Risk for constipation? Risk for constipation is an increased likelihood of constipation developing or continuing, according to NANDA International (NANDA-I).
  • What are the risk factors for constipation? Risk factors for constipation include low fiber diet, inadequate fluid intake, aging, dehydration, and certain medications.
  • Which populations are more susceptible to constipation? Older adults, patients with chronic diseases, children, pregnant women, and frail/elderly individuals are the most prone population for constipation.
  • What suggestions can be given to patients at risk of constipation? Suggestions of use for patients at risk of constipation include increasing fluid intake, eating a fiber-rich diet, becoming physically active, and avoiding stress.
  • What nursing activities should be undertaken to manage Risk for constipation? Nursing activities to manage Risk for constipation include monitoring hydration level, advising high-fiber foods, educating the patient on lifestyle choices, administering medications as advised, and consulting the physician for additional treatments.