One of the most dreaded parts of aging, alongside increased risk for arthritis and other complications, is the colonoscopy. As we age, regular colonoscopy exams become the norm, but what exactly are they for, and how do you prepare for a colonoscopy? Read on for tips to prepare for your upcoming colonoscopy:
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam that checks for irregularities in the large intestine and the rectum, which can become more common as we age. Irregularities in the colon and rectum can potentially be signs of colon cancer, blockage, or other underlying complications often associated with abdominal pain, so regular check-ups are ideal. During the procedure, a long, thin tube with a tiny camera at the end is inserted into the rectum, allowing doctors to see the inside of your large intestine with little difficulty. On occasion, your doctor might take the opportunity to remove abnormal tissue during the appointment itself as well.
The Basic Prep
To prepare for a colonoscopy, it is always best to listen to the advice your doctor gives you as best you can. Always read your given instructions completely, since every doctor has their own preferred method for preparation, and you may require a different set of preparations based on your age, weight, or diet.
Typically, doctors will need you to clear your bowels the day before the exam. To do so, consider starting a low-fiber diet a few days prior to the exam, and then move to a liquid-only diet the day before. Some recommended foods include broths, gelatin, coffee and tea, sports drinks, and water. The night before your exam, you may also need to take a laxative that can cause diarrhea to further clear the bowels.
Making Your Prep Easier
Clearing your bowels in a day can be difficult, stressful, and sometimes painful, so to make your preparation easier, always consult your doctor for some extra tips. Generally, you can split the preparation solution into portions over the course of a day or two, all while remaining close to a private bathroom space. The liquid itself usually tastes terrible, so chilling it and drinking with a straw might help it stay down as well.
The day before your exam, remember to stay calm and breathe. If you’re nervous, communicate with your doctor (which you should be doing no matter what), and tell them your concerns regarding the exam.
What Should I Expect After my Colonoscopy?
First, you should congratulate yourself for getting through your first colonoscopy! Once the procedure is over, there are a few things to expect: you’ll need to stay at the office until the anesthetic has worn off, and you may feel a bit of discomfort as it happens. Sometimes, you may bleed, although this isn’t too common unless tissue was removed during the procedure. If this is the case, avoid painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications for a few days. After any procedure that involves a sedative, have someone drive you home.
When you get home, listen to your doctor’s advice and follow their dietary recommendations—even if they are to return to your normal diet—and get lots of rest. If you take medications, your doctor will also recommend when you can return to them, since some medications can mess with the large intestine as a side effect. If needed, be prepared to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor.