Colonoscopies aren’t a fan favorite, but it’s the preparation day before the procedure most people dread.
Some discomfort is inevitable, but you can make colonoscopy prep more bearable.
The Good News
Fortunately, colonoscopy prep has improved in the past few years.
“I want to emphasize that it’s very different today,” says Dr. Charles Oberer, a gastroenterologist with Kettering Health.
Dr. Oberer commonly has patients drink a combination of Gatorade and MiraLAX® to prepare. Virtually tasteless, MiraLAX allows patients to skip one of the more unpleasant parts of prep: getting—and keeping—the laxative down.
This type of prep requires less fluid intake, tastes better, and is broken into two parts. Though this may mean you’re waking up in the middle of the night for another glass, it clears your colon more effectively than one large dose.
After hours on the toilet, you might wonder why you need this test. But consider its purpose.
Most colonoscopies are done to detect polyps, small growths that could develop into cancer. Polyps don’t often cause symptoms, so regular screenings may be the only way to catch them early.
Colonoscopy prep empties the colon so your doctor can see, find, and remove any polyps.
“If we can’t see them,” Dr. Oberer says, “we can’t remove them.”
Poor prep can lead to longer colonoscopies and, in rare cases, a perforation—or tear—in the colon.
Getting it down
You may have heard you should refrigerate your prep or drink it with a carbonated beverage. But Dr. Oberer says this comes down to preference.
“Drinking fizzy stuff with [the prep], some people get really bloated and feel gross,” Dr. Oberer says. Use what works for you, “as long as you can see through whatever you’re drinking.”
Nausea and vomiting are less common with MiraLAX, but for some people, it still happens. Dr. Oberer’s advice: drink slowly.
“A lot of people are in a hurry to get it down,” he says. “But drinking it slowly almost invariably prevents nausea and cramping.”
Dealing with discomfort
After drinking the prep, you may find discomfort in the constant elimination and wiping. Dr. Oberer says not to reach for Vaseline™.
“Don’t use any oil-based products as they can interfere with our scope,” says. Dr. Oberer. Instead, use water-based lubricants to ease irritation.
Consider replacing toilet paper with wet wipes. “They’re a little bit easier on your anus and the mucosa around it,” Dr. Oberer says.
If you notice blood when you wipe, let your doctor know. But it’s typically nothing to worry about.
“A lot of people have very small hemorrhoids; we call them vascular cushions until they begin to bother you or bleed,” Dr. Oberer says. These can become irritated, causing light bleeding.
Keep it in perspective
Colonoscopy prep is no fun, but it’s a vital step for your health.
“It’s one day, usually every five to 10 years,” Dr. Oberer says, “and it prevents huge problems down the road for a lot of people.”
This short-term discomfort can prevent a more painful and invasive journey with colon cancer.
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