Constipation Medication: FSA Eligibility
What is constipation?
Constipation can take numerous forms as both a chronic or temporary condition, but medical professionals agree that three or less stools per week constitutes constipation, while one stool or less per week refers to severe constipation. This condition is known for its various symptoms that can cause extreme discomfort, including lower abdominal pain, a constantly changing frequency of bowel movements, minimal or hard stools, and even physiological/emotional stress caused by having/lack of normal bowel movements.
Constipation is a condition has myriad potential causes, but most often the condition arises from stool passing too slowly through the digestive tract, which can lead to bowel movements becoming hard, dry and extremely difficult to pass. The underlying cause of constipation is a major consideration for physicians, as it can be indicative of issues as simple as a nutritional imbalance or more serious conditions including various types of cancer, hormonal imbalances, neurological issues and others. Ideally, if these conditions arise, constipation sufferers should consult with a doctor for diagnostic tests to ensure that the ailment is not an underlying symptom of a major health problem (WebMD).
How do constipation medications work?
Aside from medical treatments intended to alleviate the underlying cause of chronic constipation, such as surgery, prescription medications, diet and lifestyle changes and biofeedback training, there are a number of OTC medications available that can provide temporary relief to constipation. Laxatives are the most common treatments for constipation, which are medications that are designed to increase stool mobility, bulk and frequency.
Laxatives come in a variety of strengths based on the severity of the constipation problem, and the most common products include via WebMD:
- Fiber Supplements: Fiber plays a major role in adding bulk to the stool, as the substance promotes the wave-like contractions of the large intestine that move food through the organ. As this movement progresses, fiber will absorb many times its weight in water, as opposed to the intestine sapping stool of excess water and bringing about constipation. This results in bulkier, softer stools that are easier to pass. Fiber supplements are available over-the-counter, and the nutrient can also be found in a variety of food sources as well.
- Lubricants: In some cases, poor lubrication in the intestines can contribute to harder, dryer stools that are extremely difficult and painful to pass. Mineral oil laxatives are common options to keep water in the stool and intestines to gradually clear constipation symptoms.
- Osmotics: These laxatives are designed to help fluids move through the colon more regularly, which can assist in improving stool frequency and quality. Common osmotics include milk of magnesia, lactulose, magnesium citrate, polyethylene glycol and sodium phosphate enema.
- Stool Softeners: These medications are designed to extract water from the intestines, which can contribute to improved stool quality and frequency. These medications are only used for a short period of time and come as a capsule, liquid, tablet or syrup to be taken orally.