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Bowel Incontinence – Symptoms, Causes, Diet, Medication, Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Bowel Incontinence?

This is the incapability to have control of bowel movements which causing stool or feces to leak unpredictably from the rectum. It is also known as fecal incontinence. Bowel incontinence varies from occasionally leaking of stool matter while passing gas to a total loss of control of the bowel in an individual who is older than 4 years of age.

The common reason for bowel incontinence can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nerve or muscle damage

This problem may also be caused by an anal sphincter that has weakened because of age or do to damage to the muscles as well as the nerves of the anus and rectum from giving birth.

No matter what the cause is, bowel incontinence is very embarrassing so please do not keep from talking with your primary care physician about the problem. There are treatments available that can improve as well as correct this problem.

With individuals over 65 years of age, females are more often bothered by bowel incontinence. 13 out of 1000 women usually detail a loss of control of their bowel.

To maintain continence and hold stool requires the normal functioning of the anus, rectum, nervous system as well as pelvic muscles. The individual also must has the mental as well as the physical capacity to be aware of as well as be able to react to the urge to defecate.

Bowel Incontinence Symptoms

Normally adult individuals do not have incidents of bowel incontinence apart from during an infrequent short-lived attack of diarrhea. This is not the type of incontinence we are talking about. This article pertains to individuals with chronic or recurring bowel incontinence. An individual with this condition will not be able to:

  • Control the passing of gas or stools, which can be liquid or solid, from the bowels
  • Make it to the toilet in time

For some individuals, including children, bowel incontinence is a fairly minor problem, which is limited to occasional soiling of undergarments. But for other individuals, this problem due to a total lack of control of the bowels can be overwhelming.

Bowel incontinence may be accompanied by other types of problems with the bowel, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating as well as gas

If the individual or a child develops this problem it is recommended to see a physician. In some cases, new mothers as well as other adults are hesitant to talk to their doctor about this problem. But there are treatments existing and the quicker the individual is evaluated, the sooner they can find some relief from their problem.

Bowel Incontinence Causes

There is a lengthy list of disorders as well as conditions which can cause bowel incontinence, including:



A common cause of bowel incontinence is oddly enough, constipation.


It is easier to keep solid stool in the rectum than is loose stool, so the loose stools of diarrhea may cause or even worsen bowel incontinence.

Damaged muscle

Frequently, the cause of bowel incontinence is injury to the anal sphincter – which are the rings of muscle at the end of the rectum which helps hold in stool.

Damage to nerve

Bowel incontinence may be caused by nerve damage which sense stool in the rectum or to the nerves which control the anal sphincter.

Loss of storage capability in the rectum


Surgery as a treatment for hemorrhoid – enlarged veins in the anus or rectum – can damage the anus causing bowel incontinence, as can surgery which is more complex involving the anus or rectum.

Cancer of the rectum

Anal as well as rectal cancer may lead to bowel incontinence when the cancer assaults the walls of the muscle or disrupt the impulses from the nerves which are needed for defecation.

Other Conditions

If the rectum drops down into the anus, or in female, if you rectum protrudes thru the vagina, bowel incontinence may result.

  • Chronic laxative use.
  • Emotional problems.
  • Stress of unfamiliar environment.

Bowel Incontinence Treatment

There are a variety of available treatments for bowel incontinence, depending on the symptoms and their severity. Treatments may include:


  • Anti-diarrheal drugs.
  • Laxatives. To correct chronic constipation.
  • Stool softeners
  • Other medications.


  • Dietary changes – what you eat and drink affects stool consistency.
  • Bowel training – when bowel incontinence is because of lack of anal sphincter control or lessened awareness of the urge to defecate, an individual may benefit from a program of bowel-training as well as exercise therapies to restore muscle strength.
  • Treatment for impacted stool – may have to be removed by physician.
  • Sacral nerve stimulation – this stimulation strengthens the muscles and nerves in the area.


Often treatment of bowel incontinence may require surgery to correct an underlying problem. Damage caused to muscle can be repaired in this surgery. Surgery options include:

  • Sphincteroplasy –  Surgery to repair a damaged or weakened anal sphincter.
  • Treating rectal prolapse.
  • Sphincter replacement –  This is when an artificial anal sphincter is used to replace the damaged one.
  • Sphincter repair – Muscle is taken from the inner thigh and used to repair the sphincter muscle.
  • Injection of biomaterial – Injection of a silicone-based material into the anal sphincter.
  • Colostomy – This is generally considered only after other treatments have failed.

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