Laxatives - Side effects 

Cautions 

Reporting side effects

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine that you are taking.

It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

See the Yellow Card Scheme website for more information.

Laxatives can cause side effects, which vary between the different types.

For example:

  • bulk-forming laxatives can cause bloating and flatulence (wind)
  • stimulant laxatives can cause abdominal (tummy) pain; using them for long periods of time can result in a weakened or 'lazy' bowel
  • osmotic laxatives can cause abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence
  • stool softener laxatives can cause abdominal cramps, a feeling like you are going to be sick (nausea) and a skin rash

Make sure you stay well hydrated when taking laxatives by drinking plenty of fluids. At least two litres (six to eight glasses) of water a day is recommended.

Less common side effects include:

  • being sick (vomiting)
  • dizziness - do not drive or use tools or machinery if you feel dizzy
  • passing blood out with your stools
  • fainting 

If you experience any of these less common side effects then stop taking the laxatives and contact your GP for advice.

Avoiding long-term use

In most cases, you should only take laxatives occasionally and on a short-term basis. Using laxatives frequently or every day can be harmful.

Using laxatives on a long-term basis can make your body dependent on them, so your bowel no longer functions properly without the medication.

Overusing laxatives can also cause:

If you need to use laxatives more regularly, or if you have been taking them for more than a week, see your GP for advice.

Page last reviewed: 25/06/2012

Next review due: 25/06/2014

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