What is dicyclomine used for?

Dicyclomine is a medication used to treat a certain type of intestinal problem called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It helps to reduce symptoms of stomach and intestinal cramping. Here’s a quick overview of how dicyclomine works and what it’s used for:

What is dicyclomine?

Dicyclomine is an anticholinergic medication. It works by reducing muscle spasms in the gastrointestinal tract. This helps to relieve cramps, stomach pain, diarrhea, and other IBS symptoms.

What is dicyclomine used for?

The main uses of dicyclomine are:

  • Treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – This is the most common use. Dicyclomine helps to control colon muscle spasms, cramps, and pain associated with IBS.
  • Relieving acute abdominal pain – Dicyclomine can provide short-term relief for abdominal pain and cramps due to various digestive conditions.
  • Controlling biliary colic – It may be used as an adjunct treatment for this gallbladder-related pain.
  • Reducing pain during medical procedures – Dicyclomine is sometimes given prior to procedures like colonoscopies or endoscopies to reduce spasms and discomfort.

How does dicyclomine work?

Dicyclomine works by blocking the action of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that activates muscles. Acetylcholine triggers colon muscles to contract. By inhibiting acetylcholine, dicyclomine allows the muscles to relax, reducing cramping and pain.

The medication comes in both oral capsule and tablet forms. It’s available as regular and extended-release formulations. After being absorbed into the bloodstream, dicyclomine has antispasmodic effects on smooth muscle tissue throughout the body, but it primarily acts locally in the gastrointestinal tract.

What are the uses for dicyclomine?

Here is a detailed overview of the approved and off-label uses for dicyclomine:

Irritable bowel syndrome

The most common use of dicyclomine is to treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. This chronic disorder involves colon muscle spasms that lead to abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

By relaxing the intestinal muscles, dicyclomine can relieve IBS-related cramps, stomach pain, and improves bowel movement consistency in cases of IBS-related diarrhea. It’s frequently used along with diet and lifestyle changes to manage IBS.

Acute abdominal pain

Dicyclomine is sometimes prescribed on a short-term basis to treat acute pain or cramps in the stomach and intestines when the cause is unknown. It may be used for abdominal pain related to menstrual periods in women as well.

Biliary colic

This medication might be used together with other drugs to help control biliary colic. Biliary colic causes episodes of severe pain in the upper right abdomen, occurring when gallstones block the cystic duct.

Before medical procedures

Dicyclomine may be administered before colonoscopies, endoscopies, and other procedures. It helps to relieve procedure-related cramps and discomfort.

Off-label uses

While not specifically approved for these conditions, dicyclomine is sometimes used “off-label” to treat:

  • Multiple sclerosis – May help relieve intestinal spasms
  • Pancreatitis – Can reduce associated abdominal pain
  • Hiatal hernia – Might relieve discomfort from this stomach bulge
  • Colic – May reduce intestinal cramping in babies

What are the side effects of dicyclomine?

Dicyclomine can cause various side effects, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Rash

More serious side effects are possible in some cases. Contact your doctor right away if you experience:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine

Who should not take dicyclomine?

Dicyclomine may not be suitable for some patients. You should not take it if you have:

  • Glaucoma
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Obstructive uropathy like kidney stones or prostate enlargement
  • Severe ulcerative colitis
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure

Infants under 6 months old should not be given dicyclomine due to serious side effects. Talk to your doctor before using it if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant.

How to take dicyclomine

The typical dosage for dicyclomine is 20 mg four times per day. But your doctor will determine the right dosage based on your health and symptoms.

Tips for taking this medication:

  • Take it with food to reduce stomach upset
  • Swallow tablets or capsules whole – do not crush or chew
  • Space doses evenly throughout the day
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation
  • Avoid alcohol while taking dicyclomine

You may start to experience relief from symptoms like abdominal cramps within the first few doses. But it might take up to a week of treatment to see the full effects.

Don’t increase your dosage without your doctor’s approval. Extended-release forms should be taken on an empty stomach 1-2 hours before or after a meal.

Warnings and precautions

Be sure to observe these precautions when taking dicyclomine:

  • Use caution when driving or operating machinery. Dizziness is possible.
  • Antacids and adsorbent anti-diarrheals can decrease absorption. Space your doses appropriately.
  • Check with your doctor before combining with any other medications that have anticholinergic effects.
  • Tell your doctor if you have liver problems, hiatal hernia, kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, or myasthenia gravis.
  • Speak to your doctor before using this medication long-term.


Dicyclomine is often an effective option for reducing intestinal cramping and abdominal discomfort from IBS and certain other conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. When used as directed, it can provide symptomatic relief and improve quality of life.

However, this medication does come with side effects and is not suitable for everyone. Always talk to your doctor to see if dicyclomine makes sense for your situation.

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