home News Dulcolax tablets (bisacodyl) – Netdoctor

Dulcolax tablets (bisacodyl) – Netdoctor


What are Dulcolax tablets used for?

  • Treating constipation.
  • Emptying the bowel before procedures such as surgery or colonoscopy (when prescribed by a doctor).

How do Dulcolax tablets work?

Dulcolax gastro-resistant tablets contain the active ingredient bisacodyl, which is a type of medicine called a stimulant laxative.

Bisacodyl works by stimulating the nerve endings in the walls of the large bowel (colon) and rectum. This makes the muscles in the bowel wall contract more often and with increased force, which moves the stools through the colon to the rectum so that the bowel can be emptied.

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The tablets have a special coating that allows the tablets to pass through the stomach and dissolve when they reach the colon. This releases the bisacodyl precisely where it’s needed to produce its effect. The tablets have an effect 10 to 12 hours after you take them.

How do I take Dulcolax tablets?

  • To treat constipation, Dulcolax tablets should be taken at bedtime to produce a bowel movement the following morning. Follow the instructions given by your doctor, or in the packet leaflet that comes with medicine, regarding the dose to take.
  • To empty the bowel before a medical procedure, your doctor will ask you to take Dulcolax tablets the night before the procedure, as well as using a bisacodyl suppository the morning of the procedure. Follow the instructions given by your doctor, or in the packet leaflet that comes with medicine, regarding the dose to take.
  • Dulcolax tablets should be swallowed whole with a drink and not be broken, crushed or chewed.
  • Don’t take the tablets within an hour of taking indigestion remedies (antacids) or dairy products such as milk or yoghurt, as these alter the environment in the stomach and could make the tablet dissolve before it reaches the colon. This might give you stomach cramps.


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How do you treat constipation?

  • Don’t take bisacodyl on a continuous basis for more than five days unless prescribed by your doctor. If you find you need to take a laxative every day you should consult your doctor so that the cause of your constipation can be investigated.

Who should get medical advice before taking Dulcolax tablets?

  • People who have recently had surgery on their bowel.
  • Children. Constipation in children should only be treated with laxatives under the supervision of a doctor.
  • People who also have symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, feeling sick and vomiting, or rectal bleeding where you don’t know the cause, as this could indicate that you have a more serious condition that needs investigating.
Woman lying in bed with hands on stomach


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Who shouldn’t take Dulcolax tablets?

  • People with a blockage in their gut (intestinal obstruction or ileus).
  • People who are very dehydrated.
  • People having an acute flare-up of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • People with sudden abdominal conditions requiring surgery, such as appendicitis.
  • People who are allergic or intolerant to any ingredient of the medicine. Check the ingredients in the leaflet provided with the medicine if you know you have specific allergies.

Can I take Dulcolax tablets while pregnant or breastfeeding?

  • Bisacodyl is not known to be harmful if taken during pregnancy. However, as with all medicines, you should get medical advice from your doctor before taking it if you’re pregnant, particularly if you’re in your first trimester. Other methods of relieving constipation may be more suitable for you.
  • Bisacodyl is not known to be harmful if taken by women who are breastfeeding. However, as with all medicines, you should get medical advice before taking it if you’re breastfeeding.


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What are the possible side effects of Dulcolax tablets?

Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with bisacodyl. Just because a side effect is stated here does not mean that all people using Dulcolax tablets will experience that or any side effect.

  • Abdominal pain or cramps.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Feeling sick or vomiting.
  • Blood in the stools.
  • Inflammation of the bowel (rare).
  • Allergic reactions (rare).
  • Prolonged, excessive use of laxatives can lead to chronic diarrhoea, low potassium levels in the blood (hypokalaemia) and an imbalance in the amount of fluid and salts (electrolytes) in your body, particularly if you’re also taking diuretic or steroid medicines. This can cause kidney problems, among others. Prolonged, excessive use may also make your constipation worse in the long-term, as your gut can become reliant on the laxative. Don’t exceed the recommended dose of bisacodyl or take it for more than five days unless advised to by your doctor.

If you want any more information about the possible side effects of bisacodyl you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or read the leaflet that comes with the medicine. If you think you have experienced a side effect, did you know you can report this using the yellow card website?

Can I take Dulcolax tablets with other medicines?

Don’t take Dulcolax tablets with indigestion remedies (such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors, eg esomeprazole). These reduce the acidity in the stomach and small intestine, which can allow the tablets to dissolve before they reach the colon and could cause stomach irritation or cramps.

Bisacodyl shouldn’t affect other medicines if it’s taken as directed in the leaflet. However, if you’re taking any other medicines it’s always best to get advice from your pharmacist first, to make sure it’s safe and appropriate to take alongside your other medicines.

What other medicines contain bisacodyl?

Bisacodyl gastro-resistant tablets, suppositories and enema are also available without a brand name, ie as the generic medicine.


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Last updated 19.01.2017



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