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Laxative, Stool Softeners (By mouth)

Treats constipation by helping you have a bowel movement.

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Brand names include
Col-Rite, Colace, Colace Clear, DSS, Diocto, Diocto Liquid, Doc-Q-Lace, Docu Liquid, Docu-Liquid, Docu-Soft, Docucal, Doculax, Docuprene, Docusil, Dok
Drug classes About this
Laxative, Stimulant, Laxative, Stimulant Combination, Laxative, Stool Softener

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Constipation in Children and Young People: Diagnosis and Management of Idiopathic Childhood Constipation in Primary and Secondary Care

Without early diagnosis and treatment, an acute episode of constipation can lead to anal fissure and become chronic. By the time the child or young person is seen they may be in a vicious cycle. Children and young people and their families are often given conflicting advice and practice is inconsistent, making treatment potentially less effective and frustrating for all concerned. Early identification of constipation and effective treatment can improve outcomes for children and young people. This guideline provides strategies based on the best available evidence to support early identification, positive diagnosis and timely, effective management. Implementation of this guideline will provide a consistent, coordinated approach and will improve outcomes for children and young people.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adults: Diagnosis and Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Primary Care [Internet]

This guideline covers areas relevant to the diagnosis and management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) reflecting the complete patient journey, from the person presenting with IBS symptoms, positive diagnosis and management, targeted at symptom control. The guideline incorporates Cochrane reviews, published NICE clinical and public health guidance, Health Technology Assessment reports, systematic and health economic reviews produced by the National Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Supportive Care. Recommendations are based on clinical and cost effectiveness evidence, and where this is insufficient, the GDG used all available information sources and experience to make consensus recommendations using nominal group technique.

Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate or Docusate (Calcium or Sodium) for the Prevention or Management of Constipation: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness [Internet]

Constipation has many definitions and is often described differently depending on the population queried. Many physicians define constipation as a reduction in the frequency of bowel movements to fewer than three times per week while patients identify more with the symptoms associated with constipation such as difficulty passing stool, hard stool consistency, feelings of abdominal cramping, and feelings of incomplete stool passage. Causes of constipation may be primary (idiopathic) or secondary to other factors such as diet, medication, or medical conditions. Constipation can affect anyone as a minor annoyance but up to a quarter of the population experiences it chronically or severely. It can substantially affect quality of life and be debilitating. It is estimated that between 2% to 27% of the population are affected depending upon the definition of constipation used.

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Summaries for consumers

Interventions for treating postpartum constipation

Women may experience constipation during the postpartum period. Consipation is defined as a functional bowel disorder that is characterised by pain and discomfort, straining, hard lumpy stools and a sense of incomplete bowel evacuation. Haemorrhoids, pain at the episiotomy site, effects of pregnancy hormones and iron supplementation can increase the risk of postpartum constipation; as can damage to the anal sphincter or pelvic floor muscles during childbirth. It is a source of concern to the new mother who is recovering from the stress of delivery. The discomfort does not only affect the mother's health, but also impacts on the new baby's well‐being, since it needs most of the mother's attention at this time.

Gastrointestinal Complications (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about constipation, impaction, bowel obstruction, and diarrhea as complications of cancer or its treatment. The management of these problems is discussed.

Phlebotonics for haemorrhoids

Haemorrhoids are among the most common benign anorectal pathologies which usually manifest with the common symptoms and signs of bleeding, pain, pruritus, swelling and discharge. The prevalence can vary from 4.4% in the general population to 36.4% in general practice. However their true prevalence will inevitably be underestimated due to the under‐reporting of these symptoms. Medical and conservative management with high‐fibre diets, stool softeners and laxatives are the preferred treatments for grade I‐II haemorrhoids whereas surgical procedures such as haemorrhoidectomy are reserved for the more severe forms of haemorrhoids.  Phlebotonics are a heterogeneous class of drugs used to treat haemorrhoidal disease in the less severe stages of first and second‐degree haemorrhoids, and during the thrombosis episodes. Although their true mechanism of action has not been well established, they are associated with strengthening of blood vessel walls, increasing venous tone, lymphatic drainage and normalizing capillary permeability. We considered twenty four studies for inclusion in this review. This review identified twenty randomised controlled trials enrolling a total of (2334) participants which compared an intervention using phlebotonics with a control intervention. Of these twenty studies, one study compared phlebotonics with a medical intervention and another with rubber band ligation. Of the remaining four trials, we identified two trials which compared phlebotonics with each other, one trial which compared phlebotonics with herbal therapy and one trial which compared phlebotonics with infrared photocoagulation. The trials obtained did not show any significant adverse events or side‐effects from the use of phlebotonics. The studies demonstrated a beneficial effect of phlebotonics in treating the symptoms and signs of haemorrhoidal disease as well as symptom relief post‐haemorrhoidectomy.

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