What is a Circulus Vitiosus?

Under a Circulus Vitiosus is understood in common parlance a "vicious circle" (lat : circulus - circle, vitiosus - harmful ). It is an illusion or circularity, in which erroneous condition and incorrect reasoning cause each other. In medicine, a circulus vitiosus is understood to be a pathophysiological process in which two (or more) disturbed bodily functions mutually influence each other, thereby maintaining or steadily increasing the disease. So the whole thing is a self-renewing disease process.

An example

Laxatives or laxatives are helpful medications for constipation. But: laxatives should not be used regularly without medical advice.


With regular use of most laxatives, there is often a Circulus Vitiosus, which leads to dependence on laxatives. Responsible for this are water and electrolyte losses. In this context, the loss of potassium plays an important role: a potassium deficit leads to a reduced intestinal activity, which further increases the constipation of the intestines and thus causes constipation.

In order to avoid the problem of unwanted potassium losses, including the possible negative consequences, it is possible to resort to the treatment of constipation with herbal swelling agents, lactose, lactulose or the purely osmotically active laxative macrogol (polyethylene glycol).

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