Bowel incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements, which can be distressing. Bowel incontinence can vary from slight soiling when passing wind (flatulence) to an uncontrollable need to pass stools. It can happen regularly or only occasionally.
Bowel incontinence, which is also called faecal incontinence, affects about one in 10 people at some point. It’s slightly more common in women than men and can happen at any age. However, you’re more likely to be affected if you’re elderly.
Bowel incontinence may be accompanied by other symptoms of digestive problems, including:
In many cases, bowel incontinence can be treated. There are also ways to manage the impact bowel incontinence has on your daily life, including bowel incontinence pads.
There are two main types of bowel incontinence:
There are several conditions that can cause bowel incontinence, including:
Causes of bowel incontinence in females can sometimes be linked to damage during childbirth to the muscles controlling bowel movements.
If bowel incontinence is affecting your life or your confidence, see your GP.
Your GP will ask about the frequency and severity of your bowel incontinence and how it’s affecting your life. Your GP will also discuss your diet, general health and any other symptoms, such as rectal bleeding or stomach pains. They may also examine your bottom (anus) and back passage (rectum) to check for abnormalities.
Your GP may refer you for:
Your GP may refer you to a consultant or a continence clinic for further assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
Your doctor will advise you on how you can reduce the effect bowel incontinence has on your life. Your GP or consultant may recommend:
Once the underlying cause of your bowel incontinence has been diagnosed, your doctor will decide which treatment is best for you. This may involve: