Posted 16 June 2003 - 12:04 PM
Copied from Medicinet.com, under Laxatives for Constipation Stool Softeners (Emollient laxatives)Stool softeners, also called emollient laxatives, prevent hardening of the feces by adding moisture to the stool. The active ingredient in most stool softeners is a medicine called docusate. Agents containing docusate do not by themselves stimulate or increase the number of bowel movements. Therefore, they are more for use in preventing constipation than in treating it. Stool softeners are commonly recommended for patients who should avoid straining while defecating, including: * Patients who are recovering from abdominal, pelvic, or rectal surgery, childbirth, or a heart attack; persons with severe high blood pressure or abdominal hernias; and* patients with painful hemorrhoids and/or anal fissures. Softening the stool in these patients can help reduce pain during defecation.Stool softeners that are available OTC include Colace, Surfak, and pharmacy or store-branded products containing docusate. Some preparations (for example, Peri-Colace) combine a stool softener with a stimulant laxative to activate bowel movements.Precautions for using stool softenersStool softeners are generally safe and well tolerated. They should not be combined with mineral oil, a lubricant laxative, because stool softeners may increase the absorption and toxicity of mineral oil. Mineral oil droplets that are absorbed into the body can deposit and cause inflammation in the lymph glands, liver, and spleen.