Symptoms | Incontinence
Bowel Incontinence Guide - HARTMANN Advice Centre
This guide to bowel incontinence explains everything you need to know about what bowel incontinence is and how to manage living with the condition. You can also use our faecal incontinence pads to help you manage this condition.
One of the biggest challenges to finding bowel incontinence products for is being able to talk about it. It is embarrassing, and it makes us feel vulnerable. However, incontinence, particularly bowel incontinence, can be a sign that something more serious is happening. It is also something that you should not need to live with. It can seriously affect your quality of life and therefore your overall happiness and wellbeing.
It is time to set embarrassment and vulnerability aside and talk about the issues of bowel incontinence openly. You’ve already searched for this article, so you’ve made an important first step.
What Is Bowel Incontinence?
Bowel incontinence is a loss of control over bowel function. This means that you could pass material from your bowel unexpectedly. This might be something small – like the involuntary passing of gas. However, it can be as serious as the passing of liquid stool (poo) or complete loss of control over bowel movements. You are more likely to recognise the signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence – with a lack of control of the bladder. This is the same – but instead, it is for the bowel and substances coming from the back passage.
There are lots of reasons why bowel incontinence may occur. There can be an injury to the nerves that sense when you need a trip to the toilet. Usually, the stool will press against this nerve and signal that the individual should act. However, injury to the nerves in the rectum or those that control the anal sphincter can lead to bowel incontinence. There are many reasons for such nerve damage – it can be caused by childbirth, or if you suffer from consistent constipation and strain during the process of passing stools. Equally, it can be caused by spinal cord injury or even a stroke.
Learn more about Incontinence during and after pregnancy
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Bowel Incontinence?
There are symptoms that might signal bowel incontinence in adults. If these issues are happening frequently, that should alert you to potential problems – rather than individual incidents.
You may suffer from:
This is loose, watery stools that will appear quickly and with little warning. You will find this difficult to hold in – much more difficult than the more solid stools. This might mean you end up soiling yourself or you could leak stool material when passing wind. This obviously makes everyday life difficult.
Although incontinence suggests a loss of control over going to the toilet, it might be a result of poor toilet habits in general. It might be that you do not realise you need to go to the toilet at all. You will then get a build-up of stool in the bowel, which you will interpret as constipation but could also be a lack of feeling in this area.
One of the earlier signs of bowel incontinence is an increase in the amount that you pass wind – and this may smell more than usual. Embarrassing maybe, but also something that you should pay extra attention to should it continue.
This is where our stomach may fill up with gas, and you will feel uncomfortable and maybe even feel painful.
Remember you should experience these symptoms regularly, and they should impact on your day-to-day life. It is possible to have one-off incidents due to a virus or a reaction to something you ate. If these symptoms recur in a short period – this is when you should consider if you have bowel incontinence or not.
What Causes Bowel Incontinence?
There are many reasons for bowel incontinence, some of which are serious, but some are not so serious at all. It is best not to presume. The common causes of fecal incontinence why you might struggle with bowel incontinence include:
This is caused by severe constipation which in turn will cause you to strain and potentially damage nerves and anal sphincter muscle in the anal passage.
This may be a result of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or similar.
Inflammatory bowel disease Conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can cause bowel incontinence.
These are commonly known as piles and when severe can result in bowel incontinence.
Bowel incontinence could be a sign of cancer in the colon – and this is the primary reason why you should treat the symptom seriously and seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Not being able to feel that you need to pass a stool could be caused by nerve damage as a result of diabetes, spinal cord injury, MS or other similar conditions. This may also have resulted from childbirth, a stroke or spina bifida.
If you have had treatment for prostate cancer you may consequently suffer from problems of bowel incontinence.
Whatever the cause, please don’t ignore it or self diagnose. Bowel incontinence is a serious symptom and one that could indicate a more severe problem. It is always best to seek medical advice.
Can It Be Cured?
Bowel incontinence as a condition on its own can be treated, and the symptoms eased with careful management. Therefore, it is highly likely that the medical professionals will be able to offer relief and a solution to potential underlying causes that have resulted in bowel incontinence.
There are lots of ways that the GP can help with this condition – depending on the root cause of the bowel incontinence, let’s break down some of the possibilities: