Bowel incontinence can be extremely upsetting and hard to cope with, but effective treatments are available and a cure possible, so make sure you see your GP.
Bowel incontinence is an inability to control bowel movements, which means that stools can leak uncontrollably from the rectum (bottom).
Bowel incontinence is also sometimes known as faecal incontinence.
Some people may just pass a small piece of stool when passing wind, while others may have a complete loss of bowel control.
It can severely affect a person’s quality of life, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.
Bowel incontinence is much more common than most people realise. This is possibly because many people are unwilling to discuss the condition with family and friends.
Who is affected
Bowel incontinence is not a condition in itself. It is a symptom of an underlying problem or medical condition, such as muscle and nerve damage or dementia.
It can affect people of any age, although the condition is more common in elderly people. It is thought to be slightly more common in women than men. This could be because many cases of bowel incontinence develop as a complication of pregnancy.
The importance of seeking treatment
Many people with bowel incontinence do not seek medical treatment for their condition. This may be because of common misconceptions. Some of these are explored below.
- Bowel incontinence is not something to be ashamed of. Bowel incontinence is simply a medical problem that is no different from diabetes or asthma.
- Bowel incontinence can be treated. There is a wide range of successful treatments for bowel incontinence.
- Bowel incontinence is not a normal part of ageing.
- Bowel incontinence will not always go away without treatment. Bowel incontinence may go away without treatment in a minority of cases, but most people will need treatment to control their symptoms.
In many cases, with the right treatment, a person can maintain normal bowel function throughout their life.
Treatment options include:
- lifestyle and dietary changes
- exercise programmes
Even if a complete cure for bowel incontinence is not possible, most people’s symptoms improve significantly and they achieve a better quality of life.
Source : NHS Choices
Watch the NHS Choices Video here
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