Bowel Incontinence

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is bowel incontinence?

Bowel incontinence is a condition in which your bowel movement goes wrong. For normal people, bowel movement happens habitually. But for people with a bowel control problem, midnight leakage is common.

When we eat, we produce a combination of undigested food, bacteria, mucus and dead cells in solid form. This combination is called stool or feces. Stool then move through our bowel to the rectum and exits at the anus. The whole process is known as the bowel movement. Bowel incontinence happens when there is something wrong in processing the bowel. Particularly, you can’t decide when to let out the stool or when to hold it back. This often brings embarrassment. Fortunately, bowel incontinence is not a serious disease and there are cures for it.

How common is bowel incontinence?

This health condition is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of bowel incontinence?

It is pretty clear what symptoms are accompanying bowel incontinence. Bowel leakage or partial loss of bowel control is what you should look out for. Also, since bowel incontinence can go with other diseases, when you have diarrhea or constipation, then be careful in case the incontinence condition is lurking. You should go see the doctor once the problem is starting to interfere your daily life. Don’t trust your intuition too much. Once the anal sphincters get to lose control, things can be messy.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What are the causes of bowel incontinence?

Damaged anal sphincters are one of the most common causes for this condition. Anal sphincters are the muscles around the anus that are in charge of holding or stretching under your command. If these muscles or their nerves are damaged, then you lose the ability to control the bowel movement, thus leads to accidental leakage of stool or in the worst-case scenario, losing complete control over the movement.

There are other factors that can contribute to the cause of bowel incontinence. Diarrhea or constipation may be one of them as they are two common health conditions that involve the bowel movement. Inflammatory bowel disease can sometimes be the cause due to its influence on the digestive tract. Nerve damage as mentioned above can cause the muscle to stretch unwillingly. Advanced Alzheimer’s disease can also impair the ability to move the bowel.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for bowel incontinence?

Mostly anyone can get a bowel incontinence once in their life, especially accompanying with some aforementioned conditions like diarrhea or constipation. However, women with natural childbirth method have double the risk of having bowel incontinence. Also, the elders are at greater risks of having bowel incontinence due to other bowel-related health conditions they may have as aging up.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is bowel incontinence diagnosed?

The doctor may perform a physical examination to determine what causes the problem. An anal insertion is used to check the anal sphincters ability to contract. There are also other tests like stool testing, endoscopy in which a tube is inserted into the anus to check for potential problems related to the digestive tract. A nerve test may provide if there are any nerves damaged. Sometimes, an ultrasound may be used to see if there is the problem with the anal and rectal walls.

How is bowel incontinence treated?

The treatments of bowel incontinence will range from non-surgery to surgery, these are dependent upon your condition.

  • Non-surgical treatments involve taking medications, changes in your diet, drink a lot of water, set up a routine for bowel movement to train your bowel, etc.
  • A surgery or minimally invasive procedure is needed if the incontinence is untreatable when using normal means.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage bowel incontinence?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with bowel incontinence

  • Use the Kegel exercises.
  • Have the dietary changes by keeping track of what you eat, getting adequate fiber and drink more water.
  • In case you have fecal incontinence, here are some practical tips:
    • Go to the toilet before you go out.
    • Use underpants type 1 or pad if you cannot control.
    • Bring clean clothes to replace.
    • Find out the public toilet around the area that you come.
    • Use medication to reduce odors.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnose or treatment.


Review Date: November 25, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

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