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Bisacodyl (Dulcolax)

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Bisacodyl is a stimulant laxative, used to treat constipation. It works by forcing muscles in your colon to contract, forcing your stool through your bowel so it can be emptied.
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What is Bisacodyl (Dulcolax)?

What is Bisacodyl (Dulcolax)?

Dulcolax/Bisacodyl is a stimulant laxative. Bisacodyl is used to treat symptoms of occasional constipation. Constipation is where a person has difficulty passing faeces. Bisacodyl works to help empty the bowel and relieve abdominal pain and bloating caused by constipation.

Bisacodyl may also be given to you in hospital before childbirth, or to help empty the bowels before surgery.

Bisacodyl is available as tablets and as a rectal suppository. It is available under numerous brand names, including Dulcolax. Bisacodyl is available on prescription from your GP. Non-prescription forms are available in pharmacies and supermarkets. We can also prescribe it to you following a brief online consultation. Contact us to find out more.

For more information on Dulcolax/Bisacodyl, consult the patient information leaflet.

How it works

Bisacodyl is a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives work to treat constipation by stimulating nerve endings in the colon and rectum. As these nerve endings are stimulated, they force the colon muscles to contract, thereby moving stool along the colon so the bowel can be emptied. Stimulant laxatives such as Bisacodyl are usually prescribed if other laxatives, such as stool softeners, have not worked.

Bisacodyl is available as 5mg tablets. Bisacodyl taken orally should produce a bowel movement within around 6 to 12 hours. Suppositories should begin working within 60 minutes.

Before you take it

Bisacodyl is not intended to be used for weight loss. It should only be used to relieve symptoms of constipation.

You must not use Bisacodyl if you are allergic to it or any of the active ingredients. Make sure you speak with your doctor to discuss an alternative treatment for your constipation if you are allergic to any of the ingredients within.

Bisacodyl tablets may contain sugars such as lactose and sucrose. If you have an intolerance to these sugars, Bisacodyl may be unsuitable for you. Talk to your doctor to discuss an alternative method of treatment for your symptoms.

If you have severe dehydration, Bisacodyl may be unsuitable for you.

If you have bowel disease or other serious abdominal conditions, such as ileus (gastrointestinal blockage) or appendicitis, you must not use this medication. Tell your doctor or pharmacist, who will be able to recommend an alternative treatment for your constipation.

It has been reported that Bisacodyl may cause dizziness or drowsiness in some patients. You should not drive, operate heavy machinery or do anything that requires your full concentration or that may endanger the safety of others before you know how Bisacodyl affects you.

If you have medical conditions that affect the back passage (anus), such as anal fissures or haemorrhoids, you should speak with your doctor or pharmacist for advice before using Bisacodyl.

If you drink milk, take antacids (indigestion medication) or medications to reduce stomach acids, they will stop Bisacodyl from working properly. Always leave at least a one hour gap between doing any of these and taking Bisacodyl.

Bisacodyl is not generally considered safe to take during pregnancy, especially during the first three months.. Consult with your midwife or doctor regarding a suitable solution to your constipation if you are pregnant. They may either suggest a programme of gentle exercise and high-fibre foods, or recommend a laxative such as Fybogel or Lactulose, which are considered safer to take during pregnancy.

Bisacodyl may cause drug interactions with other medications. You should check with your doctor before taking Bisacodyl if you are also taking any of the following:

  • Water tablets (diuretics) as taking these with Bisacodyl can affect your body’s potassium levels
  • Steroids such as prednisolone
  • Digoxin (a medicine to treat heart problems) which can also affect the levels of salts and fluids in your body

This is not an exhaustive list of warnings or interactions. For a complete list, consult the patient information leaflet or ask your doctor or health care professional.

Dosage Instructions

You should take Bisacodyl exactly as your doctor or pharmacist has directed. Do not exceed your usual dose. If you are in any way unsure of how much to take, ask your pharmacist or doctor for clarification.

You should take one or two Bisacodyl 5mg tablets once daily, before bedtime. If you have never taken Bisacodyl tablets before, it is recommended to start with one and increase to two if necessary. The most you should take is 10 mg per day.

Swallow the tablets whole with water. Do not crush, chew or suck on them. Do not swallow Bisacodyl tablets with milk or any other dairy drink.

It is important that you stop taking Bisacodyl once your bowel regularity has returned to normal.

Bisacodyl is not a long term medication. Do not take Bisacodyl every day for more than five days. If your symptoms have not improved after this time, go to your doctor.

Store Bisacodyl in a cool, dry place, away from heat and moisture. Keep out of the sight and reach of children and pets.

Common Side Effects of Bisacodyl

Bisacodyl may cause side effects in some patients. These are typically mild to moderate in nature and should go away on their own as your body gets used to the medication. You can report side effects to your doctor if they persist or if they concern you. Possible side effects may include:

  • Nausea or feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Stomach pain

Bisacodyl may also cause more serious side effects in some patients. These are rare, but you should contact your doctor if you experience any of the following side effects:

  • Blood in stool
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Discomfort or pain in and around your anus
  • Dizziness or drowsiness
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Vomiting

Bisacodyl can also cause a serious allergic reaction in some patients. This is very rare, but any allergic reaction to Bisacodyl is an emergency and you should call your doctor for medical advice immediately if you believe you are having an allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Skin rash - redness, itchiness, blistering, peeling
  • Hives or nettle rash
  • Feeling faint

This is not a complete list of potential side effects. For additional information, consult your doctor or refer to the patient information leaflet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Bisacodyl suitable for children?

Bisacodyl is suitable for adults and children aged 10 years or older. However, children should not take Bisacodyl unless they are under medical supervision. We do not prescribe any medication to anyone under the age of 18.

I’m pregnant. Can I take Bisacodyl?

You should not generally take Bisacodyl if you are pregnant or breast feeding. There are safer, more suitable laxatives to treat your condition. Speak with your midwife or doctor for more information.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of Bisacodyl, simply take it as soon as you remember, unless it is nearly time for your next dose. In which case, skip the missed dose and continue as normal. Since Bisacodyl should be left to work overnight, it’s best to leave your dose until the next night so the medicine can work while you’re asleep.

What happens if I take too much?

If you believe you have overdosed on Bisacodyl, you should visit your doctor or local hospital as soon as possible for medical attention. Taking too much Bisacodyl can cause numerous health problems, such as an imbalance of fluids or salts in the body, low levels of potassium in the blood, weakness of the muscles, dizziness, dehydration and difficulty passing urine.

More Information
Dosage Instructions Please see medicine label for the dosage instructions.