What Is Docusate Calcium?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Docusate calcium is a generic medication that may be used by a patient who suffers from occasional constipation. It is a stool softener that works by increasing the water content of stools to allow the patient to pass them more easily. Docusate calcium may be especially helpful for patients who must avoid straining, such as those who have recently had surgery, a heart attack, or those who have hemorrhoids.

Docusate calcium may be used to treat constipation.
Docusate calcium may be used to treat constipation.

This medication is available as a syrup, tablet, or capsule, as well as a liquid. Since dosages can vary between different brands, patients should follow the directions on the label carefully, or follow the instructions of their doctors. Docusate calcium should not usually be used longer than one week unless the doctor instructs otherwise. Those who still experience difficulty after this time should see their doctors. Most people should gain relief within three days.

Patients taking the tablets or the capsules should swallow them with a full glass of water. The syrup should be carefully measured with a medicine cup, rather than household spoons. Patients using the liquid will draw it into a dropper, then mix into a small glass of fruit juice or milk. All forms of docusate calcium are typically taken at bedtime.

Some side effects may occur with the use of docusate calcium, which should be reported to the doctor if they are severe. Those taking the syrup or liquid form of the medicine may experience an irritated throat. These patients may wish to switch to the capsule or tablet. Other side effects can include stomach cramping, pain, or diarrhea, as well as nausea.

More serious side effects are rare, but can require immediate medical attention. Those who experience an allergic reaction may notice that their facial area becomes swollen, that they have problems breathing, or that they have severe dizziness. Other uncommon, serious side effects can include a fever, vomiting, and rectal bleeding.

Before using docusate calcium, patients should discuss their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements with their pharmacists or with a doctor, if the medicine was prescribed. As of 2011, it is unknown whether docusate calcium may pass into breast milk. Women who are pregnant should avoid using this drug whenever possible; however, those that must use it should discuss potential risks with a doctor. It is essential for patients to avoid using mineral oil along with docusate calcium. Other drug interactions may involve aspirin and any medicines that contain phenolphthalein.

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