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Phenolphthalein is used in the treatment and prevention of constipation. It is also used for bowel emptying before investigational procedures or surgery.

How it works

Phenolphthalein is an irritant purgative that belongs to class of drugs called diphenylmethane. It works by increasing the intestinal movements, which helps in emptying the bowel contents.

Common side effects

Frequent urge to urinate, Abnormal urination, Abdominal pain, Allergic skin rash, Dehydration, Diarrhoea, Discoloration of urine, Altered heart rate, Loss of appetite, Muscle cramp, Weakness, Fatigue, Weight loss


Expert advice

  • Do not use phenolphthalein for longer duration, beyond recommended dose as it may cause cancer.
  • Always take phenolphthalein at night.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Does phenolphthalein cause urine discoloration?
Phenolphthalein reacts with urine and causes discoloration of urine, but it is nothing to worry about it.
Q. Does phenolphthalein cause cancer?
Phenolphthalein when used for longer duration, beyond recommended dose may cause cancer growth.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)