Bowel incontinence

Bowel or faecal incontinence is a common problem, but fewer than 40% of individuals seek medical advice. Remember to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. In many cases, incontinence can be cured and it can always be managed.

About bowel incontinence

Loss of bowel control in the elderly can be an isolating condition. However, improving diet and getting some daily exercise can manage it.

Bowel incontinence is often caused by one or more of the following:

  • Constipation – this is the biggest cause of loss of bowel control in the elderly.
  • Diarrhoea, due to chronic diseases of the bowel, such as Crohn’s diseases, diverticulitis, or inflammatory bowel disease. It could also be due to medications, radiotherapy, alcohol, infection or some food allergies.
  • Social and mobility issues such as inability to reach the toilet due to poor mobility, cognitive deficit or poor communication skills.
  • Neurological Impairment associated with neurological diseases such as Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. The nerve supply to the bowel can also be damaged due to Diabetes, spinal chord injuries, tumors or radiation therapy.
  • Structural sphincter damage following injury, surgery or complicated childbirth.
  • Other causes may include Cancer, Rectal prolapse, Anal Fissure or Haemorrhoids.

Improving regularity by eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water and participating in regular exercise can make a big difference in helping to improve bowel control. You may also need to look at mobility issues and make sure there is easy access to the toilet and sufficient privacy.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about your situation, because in many cases bowel incontinence can be managed. Take a look at our tips for preparing for your doctor’s visit.

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