Preparing For A Colonoscopy

Happy Sunday readers!  I hope the day is relaxing and refreshing, ready to prepare you for the week ahead.

For me, the week ahead is bringing a colonoscopy.  Yep, something that is clearly very thrilling and something to look forward too.  Ha!

For those of you who don’t know, a colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure where a flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the rectum and used to look inside the bowels.  It is a daycase procedure that is done under sedation or simply gas and air, and although can be uncomfortable, it isn’t painful.

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This will be my third colonoscopy.

The first one I ever had was quite traumatic – it was before I was diagnosed and my GP wanted to investigate the bowel symptoms I was having before anything else (constant diarrhea, blood in my stools, weight loss).  The preparation was sachets diluted in water along with oral laxatives and they were vile,  and led to extreme diarrhea that made me really really sore.  They colonoscopist found nothing and diagnosed me with IBS (something that I now know is a common misdiagnosis in people with Endometriosis).  My gynaecologist now suspects that this was related to the adhesions that were tying my bowels up, and the inflammation that was around them.

The second one was better, although I was really hesitant to have one again after my first experience.  I’d been re-referred as after my Endometriosis diagnosis, I was put under the care of the colorectal department due to the fact the outside of my bowel had been involved, and I was still experiencing rectal bleeding which only happened during my period.  The preparation was more tolerable and the effects of it were not as bad.  The procedure was uncomfortable, and disappointing – instead of a trained Endometriosis specialist doing my scope, I ended up with someone far less experienced who told me before he even began that it was “impossible to have Endometriosis in the bowel”.  I was back to square one.

I then underwent my second laparoscopy and my consultant concluded that, as well as the visible Endometriosis that had regrown, there was some on my bowel that he couldn’t get to, and were possibly the reason for my rectal bleeding.  Although in sense this was a theory, when he placed me into the medical menopause, the fact that the rectal bleeding stopped was enough for him to firmly diagnose it.  When I came out of the menopause and got my first period, the rectal bleeding started again.  I was then back under a gynecologist – this time even more of a specialist – who wanted another colonoscopy.  He had colorectal experts that he had trained to identify Endometriosis inside the bowel.

And that is what is happening this week.  Instead of the oral preparation, I have to have an enema when I get to the hospital (and I am slightly worried that I’ll then have to queue for a bathroom when it becomes effective) and the procedure will be carried out by the only specialist Endometriosis colonoscopist in the hospital.

In a way, I am hoping they find something because the symptoms are becoming more and more apparent, and it does make you feel a bit crazy when you can see something happening but no one knows why.  For those of you who are wondering, my “bowel Endometriosis” symptoms are;

  • feeling like a red hot poker is being shoved up my bum, mainly when I sit down and only on my period
  • bleeding from my rectum only on my period
  • diarrhea
  • painful bowel movements
  • a feeling of a lump in my bum when I sit down and only on my period.

Other common symptoms that suggest bowel Endometriosis include;

  • diarrhea or constipation related to your period
  • bloating
  • intolerance to some foods
  • nausea and sickness

If you are lucky enough to be under a specialist like me, and be seen in a well-known Endometriosis centre, then you should have access to trained colorectal and urology healthcare professionals.  So if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms with your Endometriosis, it is important you let them know.

Find some tips below about preparing for your colonoscopy;

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Vaseline is your best friend – when the laxatives have taken effect, the diarrhea will be quite significant.  The constant steam of watery stools and wiping/cleaning can make your bottom area quite sore.  The best thing is Vaseline – it’s thick, waterproof and provides a good barrier between fluids and the skin.  It’s best if you apply it liberally before you even start going, and top it up as needed.  It literally saved my skin the second time around.

Follow the pre-diet instructions carefully – most preparations for colonoscopies include following some sort of diet, often sticking to plain food and avoiding anything that might colour the bowel (e.g. jelly).  There is also likely to be a time period where you won’t be able to eat.  It is vital you follow this properly – not only does this mean the colonoscopists will get the best view of your bowel, it’ll mean the preparation laxatives work effectively and you won’t have food in your bowel when they do the procedure.

Drink plenty of water – again most preparations will highlight the importance of doing this.  Particularly as you will be loosing a lot of fluids and electrolytes from the laxatives, it is important you stay hydrated so you don’t become unwell or feel really lousy.

Stay close to a bathroom – this may sound obvious, but it’s just a reminder.  My first colonoscopy had me and my husband driving almost 45 minutes to the hospital – not the best when you’ve had endless amounts of laxatives!  If there is the option to have the preparation (e.g. an enema) at the hospital, then do that – that is what I have chose this time around

Be wary of what you eat after the procedure – because of the excessive diarrhea, laxatives and the eating only plain foods before the colonoscopy, just be careful you don’t go and eat some big greasy or spicy meal straight after.  This may irritate the bowel, leading to further diarrhea.  Remember, the laxatives may still be in your system for a day or so after.

Rest – having diarrhea in general is exhausting and can make you feel really rubbish, but even more through laxatives.  Remember to rest and let your energy levels catch up afterwards.

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