Docusate is also any of a group of anionic surfactants widely used as emulsifying, wetting, and dispersing agents.
Docusate is given to make stools softer and easier to pass. It is used to treat constipation due to hard stools, in painful anorectal conditions such as hemorrhoids, and for people who should avoid straining during bowel movements. Of note is that the effect of docusate may not necessarily be all due to its surfactant properties. Perfusion studies suggest that docusates inhibit fluid absorption or stimulate secretion in jejunum. Patients should take plenty of water to help the movement of feces, therefore speeding up the initial bowel movement.
While the use of docusate is widespread, the data to support its efficacy in treating chronic constipation is actually lacking. Also, although more research is needed, long term use of docusate seems to decrease levels of magnesium and potassium in the blood.
Docusate should not be used in addition to mineral oil as the emulsifier will result in mineral oil being absorbed rather than functioning as a lubricant for the bowel walls.
Docusate sodium is also used to facilitate the removal of excess ear wax in a process known as cerumen removal.
Docusate sodium may be used in a daily regimen in persons who are undergoing narcotic pain medication therapy to reduce the effects of chronic constipation or hardened stools which can cause severe straining, impaction, and torn rectal tissues.