About Faecal Incontinence

You’re not alone if you’re frustrated by bowel control problems. Millions of people experience bowel issues at some time.

Definition

Bowel control problems prevent you from controlling when and how often you go to the bathroom. You may experience unexpected small or large leaks, use the bathroom very frequently, have difficulty clearing your bowel, or feel you are unable to completely empty your bowel. Some people experience a combination of these symptoms.

Causes

There are a variety of causes of changes in bowel function. It can be structural, such as nerve or muscular damage caused by surgery, pregnancy, or injury. Some medications influence the gut's functioning. Other conditions and diseases may also lead to incontinence, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Problems can arise due to diet, excessive weight, and lack of exercise. Travelling and changes in habits contribute to the gut's health and can cause temporary problems.

Not drinking enough fluids can cause constipation. Alcohol, especially beer, can lead to gut trouble.

Symptoms

There are different types of bowel control problems, the main two being constipation and diarrhoea.

Symptoms of diarrhoea include:

  • Unwanted and frequent passing of watery stool
  • Abdominal pain, cramping and bloating
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Blood in stool

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • A change in toilet habits and going less often than you would ordinarily
  • Having to strain
  • Passing hard or pellet-like stool
  • Feeling like you haven't fully emptied your bowel
  • Bloating, stomach cramps and nausea

Risk Factors

Women who have had children by vaginal delivery, older people (up to 25% of those living in care1), and people who've had trauma, such as an accident or surgery or a stroke, are at an increased risk of faecal incontinence.

Conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson's disease can cause bowel problems. People who have an inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome can find themselves running for the toilet or may experience leakage.

Diet, lifestyle choices, and exercise are also risk factors. Smoking, drinking alcohol, obesity, and lack of exercise are all factors that increase the risk of bowel problems.

Diagnosis

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and how they are affecting your day-to-day life. Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms.

Reference

  1. Royal College of Physicians. (23.11.2005) Inadequate and Incomplete – Continence Care in the UK. Press release http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk. (Accessed 10.10.2006).

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

Section Navigation

Additional information

Contact Us

Medtronic Australasia Pty Ltd
Medtronic
97 Waterloo Road
North Ryde NSW 2113
PO Box 945
North Ryde NSW 1670
work 1800 668 670 (Toll Free)
work +61 (0)2 9857 9000

Learn More

On the Web

Australasia