Bowel Incontinence

What is Bowel Incontinence

Bowel incontinence is an inability to control bowel movements, resulting in involuntary soiling. Bowel incontinence is more generally referred to as faecal incontinence.

Some people experience bowel incontinence on a daily basis, whereas for other people it may only be a rare occurrence.

Although Bowel Incontinence is less prevalent than Urinary Incontinence, it’s thought that about 10% or more of the population may experience the condition at some point in their lives. Bowel incontinence does tend to become more prevalent with age.

Some people may experience “passive” bowel incontince where they experience no sensation when soiling themselves, or where there is a level of soiling when passing wind. Others may feel a sudden urge to go to the toilet (similar to urge urinary incontinence) but are unable to reach a toilet in time (this is urge bowel incontinence).

Some women may experience bowel incontinence after childbirth.

Why Bowel Incontinence Happens

Bowel incontinence is a symptom of an underlying problem or medical condition such as diarrhoea, constipation, or the weakening of the muscle that controls the opening of the anus. Bowel Incontinence can also be caused by longer term conditions such as MS, Dementia or diabetes.

It can also be caused by long-term conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dementia, irritable bowel or bowel cancer.

Seeking Advice and Treatment

Bowel incontinence can be upsetting and hard to cope with, especially when it first occurs. However as it is often a symptom of another underlying condition, treatment is often possible and can be effective in many instances. Therefore it is very important that you seek advice and treatment when Bowel continence occurs and discuss the condition with a health professional.

Treating Bowel Incontinence

With Bowel incontinence it is generally the underlying condition that is treated (see Faecal Incontinence for more detailed information). With the right diagnosis and treatment, a person can maintain normal bowel function afterwards. Even if the condition cannot be cured, generally symptoms should improve after treatment.

The type of treatment will depend on the cause and severity, but some treatments include:

  • Dietary and or lifestyle changes to relieve constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Medication to control constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Exercise programmes to strengthen the muscles that control the bowel

Incontinence products, such as disposable incontinence products, may be recommended until the symptoms are under control. However it is worth noting that these will only contain, not absorb, faecal matter.