Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, refers to the inability to control bowel movements. This results in an unexpected passing of stool from the rectum and can range from occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.

It’s caused by a variety of factors, including constipation, damage to the anal sphincter muscles, damage to the nerves in the rectum and anus, loss of storage capacity in the rectum, diarrhea, or conditions that affect nerve function such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injury.

Bowel incontinence can be a challenging and embarrassing condition but there are treatments available, including dietary changes, medication, pelvic floor muscle exercises, and surgery in some cases. It is always advised to consult a health professional if one is experiencing symptoms of bowel incontinence.

bowel Incontinence

Causes of Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, or fecal incontinence, is the loss of regular control of the bowels. Involuntary excretion and leaking are common symptoms. This can happen because of several reasons:

1. Damage to Muscles: The muscles in your rectum and pelvis help you hold onto stool until you’re ready to release it. If these muscles get damaged — during childbirth for instance — bowel incontinence can result.

2. Damage to Nerves: If the nerves that sense stool in the rectum or those that control your anal sphincter are damaged, you might not realize when you need to go and not be able to control it.

3. Constipation: Long-term constipation can cause you to have large, hard stools that are difficult to pass. This can lead to a condition called impacted stool. Some soft or liquid stool could leak out around the hard stool.

4. Diarrhea: Loose stools can be more difficult to control than solid ones.

5. Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids can prevent the anal sphincter from closing completely, which can allow small amounts of stool or mucus to leak out.

6. Loss of storage capacity: Normally, the rectum stretches to hold stool until you’re ready to go to the bathroom. If your rectum is scarred or your rectum capacity is reduced for some reason, it may not be able to stretch as much, leading to bowel incontinence.

7. Aging: As you age, the muscles in your rectum and anus can weaken, leading to this condition.

Other conditions such as mental health disorders, dementia, physical disabilities, rectal prolapse, rectocele, or certain diseases and conditions (like multiple sclerosis, stroke, spina bifida, diabetes etc.) that affect nerves leading to your rectum and anus can also lead to bowel incontinence. Always consult a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing symptoms of bowel incontinence.

Risk Factors of Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, refers to the inability to control bowel movements, leading to an unexpected passing of stool. Several risk factors increase the likelihood of an individual developing this ailment:

1. Age: As you get older, the muscles in your rectum and anus might weaken, thereby increasing the risk of bowel incontinence.

2. Gender: For various physiological reasons, women, especially those who have experienced childbirth, are more prone to developing bowel incontinence than men.

3. Nerve Damage: Damage to the nerves controlling the anal sphincter or sensing stool in the rectum can lead to bowel incontinence. This damage may occur during childbirth, with long-term constipation or diarrhea, from a stroke, or with diseases that affect nerves, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis.

4. Dementia: Those suffering from dementia are a higher risk of bowel incontinence, mainly due to the lessened cognitive ability to recognize and respond to the physical need for a bowel movement.

5. Physical Disability: Certain physical disabilities that limit mobility could make it hard to reach a toilet in time.

6. Rectal Storage Capacity: If your rectum is scarred or your rectal walls have less elastic property due to surgery, inflammation, radiation treatment or even constipation, you may not be able to retain stool, leading to bowel incontinence.

7. Chronic Constipation: Constant stretching and straining can damage the muscles and nerves of the rectum and anus, leading to bowel incontinence.

8. Diarrhea: Loose stools can lead to or worsen bowel incontinence, as they are harder to control than solid ones.

9. Impact of Surgery: Certain surgeries, such as for hemorrhoids or anal or rectal cancer, may result in muscle damage leading to bowel incontinence.

10. Obesity and poor overall health: Obesity and a generally unhealthy lifestyle might increase the risk of bowel incontinence.

As with many health conditions, understanding risk factors can help in prevention and early detection. It’s important to discuss any symptoms or worries with a healthcare provider.

Signs and Symptoms of Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. Here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:

1. Involuntary Discharge: Unintentional leakage of stool can occur from the rectum. This may happen after passing gas or without explicit control.

2. Urgency: The individual may experience a sudden urgent need to go to the bathroom. It could be difficult for them to reach a toilet in time.

3. Diarrhea: Loose or waterlike stools can result in or worsen fecal incontinence.

4. Constipation: Chronic constipation might contribute to incontinence. Impacted, large stools can stretch and eventually damage the muscles in the rectum, reducing their strength.

5. Gas: The individual may have difficulty controlling the release of gas.

6. Peculiar Sensations: Abnormal feelings in the rectum such as cramps, the perception of being bloated, or pain can also be associated.

7. Symptoms affecting the skin: Due to the leakage of stool, the skin around the anus may become irritated, causing soreness, itching, and even infection.

It’s important to note that bowel incontinence isn’t a disease itself, but a symptom of other digestive problems or conditions, such as chronic diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, nerve damage, and muscle damage among others. Therefore, it’s vital to consult with a healthcare professional if experiencing any of these symptoms for proper evaluation and treatment.

Diagnosis Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is a condition where you lose the ability to control your bowel movements, causing stool to leak uncontrollably from your rectum. This could range from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.

It’s a common problem, especially among older adults, and may occur occasionally or may be a chronic condition.

Bowel incontinence can be caused by several factors including muscle damage or weakness (due to childbirth, aging, or inflammatory bowel disease), nerve damage (from childbirth, surgery, or diseases like diabetes or multiple sclerosis), constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, or rectocele.

It’s a sensitive issue that many people find uncomfortable to discuss, but it’s important to seek medical help because treatment can greatly improve a person’s quality of life. Treatment could involve dietary changes, medication, exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, or potentially surgery in some cases.

Treatment of Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements. This can cause feces to leak unexpectedly, leading to embarrassment and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments available to manage and potentially cure this condition. Here are some of them:

1. Lifestyle Changes: Dietary changes like increasing fiber intake or identifying and avoiding foods that cause bowel incontinence can help. It’s essential to maintain good hydration as well. Regular exercise helps stimulate regular bowel movements and strengthens the muscles that control the bowel.

2. Medications: Some medications can help increase the bulk of stool or slow down the movement of food through the digestive tract, reducing bowel incontinence. Antibiotics or anti-diarrheal medications may also be appropriate, depending on the cause of the incontinence.

3. Bowel Training: Bowel training is a conservative treatment option where you schedule certain times each day for bathroom visits. This can help train your body to have regular bowel movements.

4. Physical Therapy: Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, can strengthen the muscles that help control bowel movements. Other types of physical therapy may include biofeedback and electrical stimulation.

5. Surgery: If other treatments aren’t effective, surgical options may be considered. This can include sphincteroplasty (repair of the anal sphincter), sacral nerve stimulation, or in severe cases, colostomy.

6. Incontinence Products: For some people, using incontinence products like pads, diapers, or anal plugs can be helpful for managing the symptoms of bowel incontinence.

It is always crucial to talk to a healthcare professional or specialist who can provide advice based on your specific symptoms and medical history. This could be a gastroenterologist, a colorectal surgeon, or a urogynecologist specializing in pelvic floor conditions. They can help decide what treatment is best for you, considering the cause and severity of your bowel incontiness.

Medications commonly used for Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements. There are several medications that may be used to help manage this condition, but they primarily depend on the specific cause of the incontinence. Here are a few:

1. Anti-diarrheal drugs: These are helpful if bowel incontinence is caused by diarrhea. Loperamide (Imodium) is the most common anti-diarrheal medication.

2. Laxatives: If the incontinence is due to constipation and stool impaction, laxatives such as polyethylene glycol (Miralax), psyllium (Metamucil), or magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia) might be recommended.

3. Stool softeners: Medications like Docusate sodium (Colace) can help to soften the stool if constipation is a problem.

4. Bulk-forming agents: Medications like psyllium (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel) can add bulk to the stool and help control incontinence.

5. Anti-spasmodic drugs: These medications, such as Dicyclomine (Bentyl) and Hyoscyamine (Levsin), help slow intestinal movements and may be used in certain cases of bowel incontinence.

Remember, before starting any medication regime, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure that the chosen treatment is safe and suitable for your individual health situation. Also, many of these medicines are most effective when combined with certain lifestyle changes, like diet modification or pelvic floor exercises.

Prevention of Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. However, there are various approaches one can take to prevent bowel incontinence:

1. Regular Physical Activity: Regular exercise helps keep your digestive system healthy, encourages regular bowel movements and reduces the risk of constipation, a contributing factor to fecal incontinence.

2. Proper Toilet Habits: Try not to hold in stool if you feel the urge to use the bathroom. Holding a bowel movement can lead to constipation and eventually fecal incontinence.

3. Diet: Eating a high-fiber diet can help regulate your bowel movements. Limit intake of foods and drinks that can irritate the bowel and lead to diarrhea or constipation such as spicy foods, dairy products if lactose intolerant, and caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.

4. Stay Hydrated: Water helps soften your stool, which makes it easier to pass. Dehydration can lead to constipation which can in turn cause fecal incontinence.

Bowel incontinence

5. Kegel Exercises: These exercises can strengthen both your sphincter muscles and pelvic floor, which can improve muscle tone and prevent leakage.

6. Medication Management: Certain medications can cause diarrhea or constipation. Always review side effects with your doctor or pharmacist.

7. Regular Check-ups: Regular visits to your healthcare professional can help keep on top of any issues before they become serious.

8. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight can put additional pressure on your anal muscles and can lead to incontinence.

If you are already experiencing bowel incontinence, it’s very important to witness a healthcare professional. They can provide a diagnosis and recommend a tailored treatment approach, which could include lifestyle changes, medication, physical therapy, or in some cases, surgery.

FAQ’s about Bowel incontinence

1. What is bowel incontinence?
Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is a condition where you lose control over your bowel movements causing stool to leak unexpectedly from your rectum. This could range from occasional leakage while passing gas to complete loss of bowel control.

2. What causes bowel incontinence?
Bowel incontinence can be caused by several factors like damage to muscles or nerves around the anus, constipation, diarrhea, or underlying conditions like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or even after childbirth in some cases.

3. Who is at risk of bowel incontincence?
It can affect people of all ages – adult men and women and even children. It is, however, more common among older adults.

4. How is bowel incontinence diagnosed?
Diagnosis typically involves a review of medical history, a physical examination, and additional tests such as anorectal manometry, an ultrasound, or MRI. In some cases, doctors may recommend a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to rule out other potential causes.

5. What treatments are available for bowel incontinence?
Treatments vary based on the cause and severity of the incontinence. They may range from dietary changes, muscle strengthening exercises, medications, biofeedback to surgery in severe cases.

6. Does bowel incontinence lead to other health complications?
If not properly managed, it can lead to skin infections or sores due to skin contact with stool.

7. Can bowel incontinence be prevented?
While it may not be entirely preventable, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes balanced diet, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight, can help diminish its risk. Regular bowel habits and pelvic floor strengthening exercises may also help.

8. Can bowel incontinence be cured?
Depending on the cause and severity, many people with bowel incontinence can be completely or partially cured with treatment. In some cases, the condition may be managed rather than cured.

9. How common is bowel incontinence?
The exact numbers vary, but it’s estimated that about 2% of the general population experiences bowel incontinence. However, this rate is often considered an underestimate because many people with bowel incontinence are hesitant to report the condition due to embarrassment.

10. How will bowel incontinence affect my daily life?
Bowel incontinence can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, causing embarrassment, fear of public outings, and even depression. However, with proper management and treatment, most people can significantly reduce their symptoms and resume regular activities.

Useful links

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements which results in stool (feces) leaking unexpectedly from the rectum. This health condition may be caused by a number of factors, including constipation, damage to muscles or nerves of the anus and rectum, chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis or dementia, and even childbirth.

Research and medical advancements have contributed greatly to our understanding of this condition. Here are some useful articles from various scientific and medical journals that may provide further information:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33213775/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32839874/

Please note that while these articles may provide some general understanding and information, if you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of bowel incontinence, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Complications of Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements. This condition can range from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control. Complications may include:

1. Emotional distress: Bowel incontinence can lead to embarrassment, feelings of shame, depression, and reduced interest in social activities.

2. Skin irritation: Chronic contact with fecal matter can lead to skin infections, itching, sores, or other issues around the anal area.

3. Urinary incontinence: Many people with bowel incontinence also experience urinary incontinence, likely due to a common cause such as injury during childbirth, impaired nerve function, or reduced flexibility of the pelvic floor muscles.

4. Reduced Quality of Life: The daily management of fecal incontinence and the related psychological issues can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.

5. Sexual issues: Due to the sensitive nature of the condition, it may affect someone’s sex life, possibly putting a strain on relationships.

6. Economic impact: Depending on the severity, fecal incontinence can lead to the person needing assisted living facilities or other forms of long-term medical care, which can be costly.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you’re dealing with bowel incontinence. It’s a treatable condition and the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can improve your quality of life.

Home remedies of Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also referred to as fecal incontinence, is an inability to control bowel movements, causing stool to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. While persistent bowel incontinence is usually a symptom of an underlying medical condition that needs professional treatment, some people may find temporary relief through certain lifestyle changes and home remedies.

1. Dietary Changes: Altering what you eat can regulate bowel movements and reduce the risk of incontinence. Increase fiber intake (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) to help bulk up stool, making it easier to control.

2. Hydration: Making sure that you’re adequately hydrated every day can help your digestive system function more efficiently.

3. Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can strengthen your muscles, including those associated with bowel control.

4. Bowel Training: This includes scheduling certain times of the day for bowel movements, typically after meals, to provide more control.

5. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Kegel exercises can also help strengthen the muscle in the rectum, providing greater control.

6. Biofeedback: This form of therapy is conducted under professional guidance, where patients are taught to control muscle tone and bodily processes that are usually unconscious.

7. Avoid Irritants: Certain foods and drinks, such as caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, dairy products, and spicy foods, can worsen symptoms of fecal incontinence.

Please note that this advice is intended as a general guide and may not suit everyone. If symptoms persist or worsen, you should see a healthcare provider. They can provide treatment options or refer you to a specialist if needed.

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Digestive Health,

Last Update: January 12, 2024