Stool Softener in Constipation: Uses, Benefits And Side Effects

Constipation is a very common gastrointestinal problem that most people face at some stage in life. The condition can be identified as infrequent and small bowel movements which are even hard-to-pass, stool.

A patient can have constipation which is not a reason for an underlying disease, such as, dehydration, lack of fiber in the diet, lack of physical activities or side effects to medication. Some medications or health conditions can increase the risks of constipation. 

A stool softener is an easy approach and is often used to treat occasional constipation. Stool softeners like docusate are mostly the first method to treat or prevent constipation. Docusate (a laxative in a type of stool softener) treats chronic or normal constipation. This is common when the person has to strain or put pressure to pass stool.

Also Read: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Constipation?

How to use a Stool Softener?

Docusate is a commonly used stool softener for constipation. This stool softener works by raising the water amounts that the stool absorbs in the gut. This results in a stool softer which is also easier to pass.

The best way is to follow the steps or directions mentioned on the tablets or as told by the doctor. There is no much hassle to it, just follow the directions given on the package. If you are not sure about any of the information mentioned on the product itself, consult your doctor.

The experts advise to take the medication orally, preferably at bedtime with a glass full of water (you can also take juice instead). The dosage varies as per the medical condition and response to medication. Doctors suggest to decrease the dosage or stop taking the medication if the patient develops diarrhea.

Benefits of stool softener

  • Treats constipation
  • Helps relieve pain while passing stool
  • No straining on the toilet seat

Side Effects of stool softener

side effects after stool softeners

Side effects of stool softener are minor and are rarely severe. Although, keep an eye for these symptoms while using this medication:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Irritated throat

 If you observe any of the above side effects, notify your doctor. The benefits of stool softener are much greater than the risks or side effects. Most people using the medication do not experience serious side effects. (Also Read: Are Abdominal Pain and Constipation commonly related? )

A person may also have an allergic reaction to the medication. Symptoms of an allergic reaction 

  • Rash
  • Itching or swelling, mostly on the face, tongue or throat
  • Severe dizziness or feeling drowsy
  • Trouble breathing.


Before you start taking this medication, mention to your doctor about the allergies that you have, if any. This medicine may also contain inactive ingredients which may cause allergic reactions. Consult your doctor for more details.

If you have any of the below-given health conditions, consult your doctor before taking the stool softeners: 

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Change in bowel movements during the previous 2 weeks.

Consulting the doctor during pregnancy or breast-feeding before using the stool softener.


You can treat constipation by eating a high fiber diet, drinking enough water and other healthy fluids and opting physically active lifestyle. It is better to use stool softeners only for temporary relief of constipation. Do not get into the habit of using it regularly or repeatedly. Using this medication for a long period can make the person dependent on stool-softeners.

Disclaimer: The information in this database is intended to supplement, not substitute for the advice, evaluation, and judgment of a doctor or medical advisor. The information is just intended to cover all possible uses, uses, precautions, interactions or side effects, and does not indicate that use of a particular medicine is safe or effective for anyone. Consult a doctor before commencing any such medicine or course of treatment.


Is there a difference between stool softener and laxative?
Laxatives are products that help people to poop by causing bowel movements. Stool softeners are a type of laxative that works by drawing water into the stool, making stools softer and more comfortable to pass.
Can I take laxative and stool softener together?
The combination of laxative and stool softener may not work effectively for all. They are, infact, likely to cause side-effects. So take only one of them.
How often I can take stool softeners?
Do not take stool softeners more than one week without a doctor's prescription. It may have side-effects such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

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