How do medications affect colonoscopy preparation?
While preparing for your colonoscopy, a preventive screening for colorectal cancer, one thing can be certain; you want the process to go as smoothly as possible. Many focus on the fasting and laxatives required for a successful screening, but it’s also important to consider how medications and certain health conditions, like diabetes, can affect your colonoscopy prep.
When you schedule your screening, which is recommended routinely after age 45, your doctor will provide written instructions to follow. They will also review your medical history and consider any current prescription or over-the-counter medications you may be on. Certain medications, like blood thinners, can increase your risk of bleeding before and after the screening by reducing your body’s ability to form blood clots.
“It’s important to share a list of all medications you are taking,” adds Dr. Gregory Pajot, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “You may need to stop certain medications before your screening, and certain medications may affect the directions we give you.”
In general, your doctor will instruct you to:
- Avoid any solid foods for 24 hours before your test. Instead, you will have clear liquids and receive a list of colonoscopy-friendly options.
- Stop drinking any clear liquids at least 2 hours before your test.
- Take a pill or liquid laxative.
A week before your colonoscopy, you should stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications such as ibuprofen. If you are on blood thinners, it is important to discuss a plan to adjust or avoid these medications with your doctor.
If you have diabetes, the thought of fasting and maintaining your blood sugar levels may cause anxiety. Dr. Pajot notes that it is safe for those with diabetes to have a colonoscopy – the instructions for preparing may just look a bit different.
“Because you will not be eating your normal diet, it’s important to discuss with your doctors ahead of time a plan to adjust the way you take your diabetes medications to avoid low sugar levels,” says Dr. Pajot. “During the preparation period, you may want to monitor your sugar levels more closely, and let us know if you feel your blood sugar is getting low.”
You may also want to schedule a screening early in the day, and it’s best to bring your medications and glucose monitoring tools with you.
“We understand adjusting medications can make the preparation for a colonoscopy more complicated,” says Dr. Pajot. “But colonoscopies are the most effective way to both reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer as well as detect colorectal cancer early. So, we work together to ensure a safe and successful screening.”
While there are many misconceptions about colonoscopies that cause some to delay the life-saving screening, it’s really not as bad as it may seem on paper. The most important part to focus on is your colonoscopy prep – poor prep can lead to an incomplete screening, since your colon needs to be clean to provide a clear view.
“The hardest part of a colonoscopy is the preparation,” says Dr. Pajot. “To make this process as easy as it can be, we provide clear instructions and tips for our patients, while also considering their existing health conditions and medications.”
Learn your risk for colorectal cancer by taking our colorectal health assessment. Learn more information about colorectal cancer screenings in Illinois or Wisconsin.
About the Author
Macaire Douglas, health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist and writer with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and previously worked as a content director for a lifestyle publication. In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening and keeping up on pop culture.