Bowel Incontinence

BOWEL INCONTINENCE problem

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of bowel incontinence

The gastrointestinal tract is an integral part of the human body which is responsible for various essential functions. The most important segment of the gastrointestinal tract is the bowel that is responsible for controlling the passage of fecal matters and other waste products outside the body. Abnormalities in the bowel movements give rise to “bowel incontinence” of serious nature. Typically, bowel incontinence problems are more prominent in old age and affect men and women equally.

Epidemiological studies by the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons suggest that nearly 5% of the general population suffers from bowel incontinence problems. They have also suggested that 20% of women experiencing urinary tract diseases are likely to suffer from bowel incontinence problems at some point in time. Children and teens suffering from gastrointestinal disorders are also predisposed to bowel incontinence problems.

 

Definition of bowel incontinence

In medical terms, bowel incontinence is defined as the loss of control of the passage of fecal matter (stool, mucous, gas and other waste products) through the rectum. It may be characterized by either accidental leakage of fecal matter or extreme difficulty to pass fecal matters outside the body. Proper working of the bowel depends on the sync between the rectum, anus and the nervous system. Two types of muscles are primarily responsible for controlling bowel movements, namely- the outer muscle group (external anal sphincter) and the inner muscle group (internal anal sphincter). Normal bowel movement comprises of rectal sensation (sensation of the presence of solid fecal matter in the rectum) and rectal compliance (the ability of the rectum to relax and store stool for a period of time when the bowel movement is not possible). Abnormalities in either mechanism can be a strong indicator of bowel incontinence.

 

Causes of bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence may be an outcome of multiple etiological factors. The most common ones are described below-

  • Muscle damage: Damage of sphincter muscles may occur due to mechanical trauma, external injury, hemorrhoid surgery, injuries during normal delivery. This causes loss of capacity of the anus to control the passage of stool and may lead to accidental leakage of stool (due to incomplete closure of the anus).
  • Nerve damage: Damage of the parasympathetic nerve that controls bowel movements (pelvic splanchnic nerve) may occur due to existing gastrointestinal disorders, childbirth injuries, mechanical trauma, brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. This may lead to impaired functioning of the anal sphincter muscles that can cause bowel incontinence.
  • Constipation: Constipation patients normally pass extremely hard stools that cause excessive stretching of the rectum and relaxation of the internal sphincter muscles by reflex. Passage of watery stool occurs henceforth that may lead to bowel incontinence.
  • Diarrhea: In this condition, the rectum gets frequently filled by watery stools which are difficult to hold for a long time. Hence they get leaked out unexpectedly causing bowel incontinence.
  • Childbirth injury: In the case of normal delivery, childbirth occurs through the vagina and may cause damage to the muscles and nerves around the pelvic region. The risks are high when forceps are used to facilitate the process or a surgical cut is made at the vagina (episiotomy) to prevent childbirth injuries. All these factors collectively contribute to bowel incontinence in the future.
  • Rectocele: This is a pathological condition in which the rectum pushes through the vagina due to the weakening of muscles separating rectum and vagina. This causes retention of stool in the rectum even after the bowel movement, which may lead to bowel incontinence.
  • Hemorrhoids: In this condition, swollen blood vessels are formed (underneath the skin) in the anal and lower rectal portion, that leads to incomplete closure of the anal sphincter muscles, causing bowel incontinence.
  • Rectal prolapse: In this condition the rectum protrudes through the anus and causes incomplete closure of the anal sphincter muscles, leading to bowel incontinence (due to leakage of stool and mucous).
  • Loss of stretch in rectum: Loss of flexibility of rectal walls can occur due to various conditions such as rectal surgery or some chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, causing bowel incontinence.
  • Physical activities: Reduction or complete absence of physical activities, or leading a habitual sedentary life (especially in old age) can cause bowel incontinence due to abnormal retention of large quantities of stool in the rectum.

 

Symptoms of bowel incontinence

BOWEL INCONTINENCE problemBowel incontinence is normally manifested through the following symptoms-

  • Accidental leakage of stool and mucous
  • Loss of sensation of the passage of fecal matter
  • Frequent urge to defecate and often passing small quantities of stool even before reaching the toilet
  • Frequent passage of wind and loss of control of wind passage
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Feeling of stool retention even after a bowel movement
  • Supporting the muscles with the hand while trying to defecate
  • Slimy sensation in the anus even after wiping and often requiring a lot of toilet tissues to completely clean the anus
  • Stains left in underwear due to the passage of liquid stool unknowingly
  • Urinary incontinence

 

Types of bowel incontinence

BOWEL INCONTINENCE diapers

  • Bowel incontinence has multiple classifications. The first classification is described below-
  • Fecal incontinence: In this condition reduced control of the passage of stool (liquid or solid) occurs.
  • Anal incontinence: In this condition, the involuntary passage of gas and mucous occurs in addition to fecal incontinence.

The second classification is discussed below-

  • Passive incontinence: Involuntary passage of fecal matter unknowingly.
  • Urge incontinence: Passage of fecal matter (unwillingly) despite the urge to retain bowel contents.
  • Fecal seepage: In this case, normal defecation is followed by involuntary passage of stool.

The third, less known classification is described below-

  • Real incontinence: In this case, actual bowel incontinence takes place due to certain existing clinical complications.
  • Pseudo incontinence: Here, bowel incontinence-like symptoms are evinced by a person, despite the absence of actual incontinence problems. This can be cured by a laxative.

 

What Are The Possible Complications?

If persons with incontinence severely cut down on their outdoor activities or exercise, on account of embarrassment or fear of accidental bowel leakage, they may end up developing other health conditions such as obesity or diabetes. They may also suffer from depression and anxiety.
Other possible complications include recurrent urinary tract infections and irritation and itching of the skin around the anus.

 

Diagnosis

The following diagnostic tests are normally recommended for bowel incontinence-

  • Blood test
  • Stool culture
  • Abdominal X-ray (to find retained or impacted stool)
  • Anal manometry (to analyze pressure in the anal canal)
  • Endoanal ultrasound (to identify sphincter muscle damage)
  • Defecography (to test the functioning of the pelvic floor)
  • Colonoscopy (to look for inflammation, bleeding or ulcers in the colon)

 

Treatment and prevention

Try wearing absorption pads as it can make a big difference in your quality of life. Changing your diet, knowing what makes your bowl incontinence better or worse can help. Depending on the cause of your bowel incontinence, over the counter medications can be prescribed.

Prevention:

  • Maintain a die that does not make your stool too watery and lose or cause constipation, make sure to a lot of fluids in case of constipation.
  • Bring about a change in your day-to-day life by doing physical activity.

Facts

  • In Australia, bowel incontinence effects up to 20% men and 12.9% women.
  • Around 77% of the elderly in Australia living in aged care facilities have this condition.

Facts

  • Bowel incontinence is one of the 3 major reasons for the admittance of aged care facilities.
  • It is the inability to control bowel movement, especially seen in elderly people.

Facts

  • Bowel incontinence can be caused due to irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Bowel incontinence is also called fecal incontinence, accidental bowel leakage or encopresis (a term mostly used for children)

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Make sure to get a digital rectum exam or a pelvic exam.
  • Get an endoscopy done to check if there is any problem in the anus, rectum, colon or any inflammation in the digestive tract.
  • Image testing helps in determine if there is any problem in the anus, pelvic floor or rectum.
Don'ts
  • Take constipation or diarrhea lightly as constipation makes the muscles inside the rectum lose eventually leading up to bowel incontinence. Diarrhea is a loose and watery stool that fills up the rectum quickly and makes it harder to hold compared to solid stool, those who are not in hospitals or nursing homes tend to be most common.
  • Ignore treatment if you have had a brain injury, gone through child birth or an accident recently do not ignore to get yourself checked for bowel incontinence.
  • Ignore hemorrhoids as they do not let the muscles around your anus close completely.

 

 

 

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Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
Experts reveal the safest ways to perform an enema at home The idea of pushing some up your rectal area might make you queasy but an enema could actually…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
rosacea-treatment--before-_-after
The best and safest ways to treat rosacea Rosacea is a skin disease that is characterized by reddish hives and rashes on the face. Read more…
Isagenix diet weight loss
How are BMI and BMR different and what do these numbers mean? BMI and BMR are two important metrics that provide a clear picture of your body's metabolism and also…
Optavia diet
The features of an Optavia diet The Optavia diet endorses pre-packaged meals and snacks called "fuelings" that are tasty, low in calorie, and incorporates…
dance health benefits
5 unbelievable effects of dance on your overall health! You enjoy dancing, but did you know what else it does to your body? Dancing is not only…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
green poop causes
Green poop : What are the reasons and how can you correct it Ever sneak a peek down the toilet only to shockingly find green poop? Why does our poop turn…
What to eat, what not to eat in the South Beach Diet? The South Beach Diet is one among the most popular weight loss programs that have been the talk…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
Ear pain model
Easy and safe tips for ear wax removal you can do at home Cerumen impaction generally occurs when an external object like cotton swabs are used to remove the ear wax.…
CBC blood test
CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test refers to the test that measures the number of RBCs, WBCs, etc…
BoneMarrow-Biopsy
Bone Marrow Biopsy Bone marrow biopsy is a diagnostic procedure where a small amount of bone marrow is extracted from hip…
beta hcg test
Beta hCG Test A Beta hCG test measures the level of human gonadotropin hormones present in the blood that is primarliy…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
blood ketone test
Blood Ketone (D3HB) Test The Blood Ketone Test measures and monitors the levels of ketone in the blood which is usually performed…
piles,fistula,fissures
Difference between piles, fissures, and fistula Click to know the difference between piles, fistula and fissure and the best ways to get effective treatment…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…
Is it possible to achieve full body detox with Master Cleanse? Master cleanse is a diet consisting of a lemonade based beverage, a salt water drink and a herbal…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
Hysteroscopy_procedure
Hysteroscopy Hysteroscopy is a minimally invasive tool to help specialists view the uterus to diagnose and even treat several…
C-Reactive Protein Test A CRP or c-reactive protein blood test is an important diagnostic tool used to determine the risk of…
Strep throat pain
Anti-Streptolysin-O Test The ASO or Anti-Streptolysin-O is a blood test designed to check for the presence of streptococcus bacterial infection…
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
about mediterranean diet
Why you should be adopting a Mediterranean style of diet today Ever wondered why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy? One simple solution to lowering risk of several deadliest…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
kefir bottle
Kefir: Top reasons why this probiotic drink should be consumed by you Yet another remarkable fermented food, kefir is a much healthier version of yogurt. These chewy white grains can…
Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
Epley maneuver: Why is this the best protection from the symptoms of vertigo? Epley maneuver is an exercise that can treat the symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).  It was…