Got Gas? Side Effects of a Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy lets your doctor examine the health and condition of your colon and intestines. If you are at least 50 years old or experiencing symptoms, like bloody stools, diarrhea, or constipation, your doctor may recommend getting a colonoscopy to screen for polyps, tumors, ulcers, lesions, or other abnormalities that may be cancerous or turn into cancer.

During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope is put into your rectum. A tiny video camera attached to it lets your doctor view your colon and intestines. A colonoscopy is considered a safe procedure and involves few risks. However, complications can occur. Most people only experience minor cramps, bloating, pain, and abdominal swelling due to air that inflates their colon during a colonoscopy.

Preparation and Procedure Problems

For a few days before the colonoscopy, you are encouraged to have a low-fiber diet. Try eating the following and other low-fiber foods:

  • Muffins
  • Bagels
  • Pasta
  • Cottage cheese
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish

But avoid these and similar foods:

  • Vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn

Then, you will be required to follow an all-liquid diet the day of the colonoscopy. Liquids include the following:

  • Clear broth
  • Water
  • Tea
  • Apple or white grape juice
  • Soft drinks
  • Sports drinks

So, you may get hungry, but know that it is only temporary. Prior to your colonoscopy, your doctor prescribes medications and laxatives to remove fecal matter from your colon. Having a clean and empty colon helps create a clearer view of your colon. However, these medications can make you feel:

  • Nauseated
  • Dehydrated
  • Tired

Also, during the procedure, you may feel abdominal pressure, cramping, and bloating. You can be given more medication to alleviate these side effects. You may experience abrasions due to the tube being inserted and moved around.

After the Screening

Once your colonoscopy is completed, it is not uncommon to have the following side effects:

  • Feeling sleepy and out of it for a few hours; sedatives and anesthesia take time to wear off
  • Hungry after not eating for awhile
  • Being bloated and gassy to clear air from your colon; go for a walk to relieve discomfort
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Hemorrhoidal discomfort

Although a colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure and does not require hospitalization, you are monitored and observed by medical professionals until side effects subside and the effects of sedation or anesthesia go away.

After a few days, side effects should completely go away. However, contact your doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • Fever (100 F or higher)
  • Severe pain
  • Excessive bleeding or blood clots
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Tender abdomen
  • Inability to pass gas or stools

Yes, a colonoscopy can cause side effects, some more serious than others. If you have any questions or concerns about side effects, contact your doctor.

Follow Up

At some point, you will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor to receive the results of the colonoscopy.  Biopsy results for polyps and other abnormal tissue removed may take several days or weeks. Depending on the results, your doctor may ask you to monitor various symptoms and follow a specific diet.

If you prefer to not get a colonoscopy, there are a few alternatives that are less invasive or painful. These include:

  • X-ray of colon
  • Sigmoidoscopy (requires less preparation)
  • CT scan
  • Endoscopy
  • Virtual colonoscopy

Ask your doctor which method is best for you. But make sure you do something.

Side Effects Aside

Sure it may be  uncomfortable and unpleasant, but a colonoscopy is necessary to establish the health of your colon and intestines. Although there are some side effects that come with a colonoscopy, it is critical to get one if deemed necessary.

Have you had a colonoscopy?  If not, call your doctor to schedule one.