Sulfates are salts used in some bowel prep medicines prescribed by gastroenterologists for patients about to undergo a colonoscopy. Sulfonamides – also known as sulfas – are drugs that prevent the growth of bacteria in the body.
The sulfates dissolved in a bowel prep solution work as a laxative by drawing water into the bowel, causing it to empty out. Clearing the large intestine (rectum and colon) thoroughly is very important for a successful colonoscopy. Only when the bowel is cleared well enough can a physician use a scope to determine whether the bowel’s inner lining is healthy.
Sulfonamides, most of which are antibiotics, are used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms. Physicians often prescribe sulfonamides for urinary tract infections, ear infections, long-lasting bronchitis, bacterial meningitis and some eye infections. These drugs, available only by prescription, may be given as tablets, liquids or injections. Some examples of sulfonamides are Septra® and Azulfidine®.
Whenever possible, people with lupus should avoid taking sulfa-containing antibiotics (or sulfonamides) as these drugs can exacerbate lupus symptoms in some individuals. People with lupus are also more likely to be allergic to sulfonamides compared to the general population. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim®) is an example of this category of antibiotics.