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Faecal Incontinence

Bowel incontinence is leakage of some kind from the bowel, or uncontrollable gas or flatulence that isn't caused by a one-time incident or infection and is repeated or continuous over an extended period of time. Faecal incontinence relates specifically to the inability to control your bowel movements leading to leaking from the rectum.

You don't have to put up with incontinence. Treatments are available that can improve or even correct the condition. Talk to your doctor about your bowel problem and he/she will be able to advise you on the most appropriate treatment for you.


Types of Bowel Incontinence

Urge Incontinence is when someone registers the filling of the rectum and can feel the urge to go, but they may have to rush to the toilet to make it on time.

With Flatus Incontinence the person feels the sensation of filling in the rectum, but their body's sensation mechanisms don't work properly and they can't tell whether it's gas or stool in there.

Passive Incontinence is when there's no urge instruction to go to the toilet, or the message isn't registered by the brain. In other words, the person is unaware that the rectum is full and ready to empty. Because people never feel any sensations in their back passage, they can't consciously control their bowel movements and stool is passed without their knowledge.

Overflow Incontinence is usually a result of a blockage in the colon caused by constipation. The blockage, caused by stool that's stuck, blocks yet more stool. Only watery faeces can pass around it. That discharge then leaks out because it's so hard to control.

Dual Incontinence is when someone has both bowel and bladder control problems.

Find out more about treatment options


Who can Suffer From Bowel Incontinence?

Faecal incontinence can affect both men and women of any age. However, incontinence is slightly more common in women because of injury to the anal muscles or nerves that can occur during childbirth.

As you get older, the muscles controlling bowel movements, the anal sphincter muscles, weaken and this can also result in incontinence.

However, faecal incontinence should not be considered an inevitable consequence of child birth or a natural part of the ageing process.


What Causes it?

There are many causes of bowel incontinence, such as:

  • Damage or injury to the anal sphincter muscles or the nerves surrounding these muscles (e.g. during labour and childbirth)
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics
  • Poor diet
  • Medical treatments such as anal surgery, radiation or chemotherapy to the lower pelvic region
  • Conditions such as chronic diarrhoea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, stroke or scleroderma
  • Accidents or trauma such spinal cord damage


Why Should I Seek Help?

Often people struggling with bowel incontinence are reluctant to seek help, even when the condition affects their quality of life, as they are too embarrassed or don't realise that incontinence can be effectively treated. People tend to curb their social activities, miss work and withdraw into themselves to cope with the problem. It's important to understand that bowel incontinence is not uncommon and can be successfully treated.