Bowel problems are much more common than most people think, and bowel incontinence is one of the more distressing bowel problems people can suffer.
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Faecal incontinence can range in severity, ranging from passing a small piece of stool when passing wind, through to complete loss of bowel control. But no matter the severity of the problem, bowel incontinence can really damage self-esteem and quality of life.
Faecal incontinence is a symptom of bowel (anorectal) dysfunction, occurring as a result of a dysfunctional coordination of the internal and external sphincter muscles, and pelvic floor muscles. If you suffer from faecal incontinence you will uncontrollably pass gas, and leak liquid and/or solid faeces occasionally, or multiple times a day.
The internal sphincter is unconsciously contracted throughout the day, holding waste matter in the rectum until there is enough to warrant a bowel movement. If the sphincter becomes damaged then you can lose the sensation to go to the bathroom, and it can open to allow soft or small pieces of stool to leak without you realising. This often occurs when you are moving, and is known as passive faecal incontinence.
The external sphincter is voluntarily relaxed until your rectum becomes full, at which point the internal sphincter gives the sensation to go to the toilet and you contract this sphincter. You will then relax both sphincters to relieve yourself in a toilet. If this muscle gets damaged you can expect the urge to go the bathroom to be quickly followed by a uncontrollable bowel movement as you are unable to contract the external sphincter enough. This is known as urge faecal incontinence.
60% of people suffering with faecal incontinence also experience flatus incontinence. But it can often occur in isolation.
Flatus incontinence (flatal incontinence) is a symptom of bowel (anorectal) dysfunction. It is defined by it being more noticeable when you pass wind, and being unable to restrain it, leaving you embarrassed. Flatulence is part of a normal, healthy digestive system and cannot be completely prevented, usually being odourless and inoffensive. The gas you release is a mix of air swallowed as you eat, drink or smoke. Alongside gas produced by the colonic microbiota (live microbes) within your digestive system as they break down your food.
If your internal sphincter has nerve damage, you may not be stimulated by the gas as it passes through. Therefore you can pass wind without realising it was coming. If you do feel the urge to pass wind, you contract your external sphincter to keep it in until an appropriate time. If this sphincter is damaged or weak, you may have no control over stopping the gas.
If you are suffering bowel incontinence, it’s important not to just wear incontinence pads and hope the problem will go away, it’s important to see your doctor to establish the cause, and Kegel exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor.
While Flatus incontinence can be treated with conservative; lifestye and non-surgical therapies alone, treatments for faecal incontinence can be conservative or may require surgery, as a last resort.
A strong pelvic floor means that your muscles can better support your pelvic organs and help to prevent faecal and flatus incontinence.
Bowel Incontinence Symptoms
Passing a small stool when passing wind
Complete loss of bowel control
Causes of Bowel Incontinence
Rectal problems such as constipation, diarrhoea or rectal cancer
Problems with the sphincter such as muscle damage or damage caused by difficult childbirth
Nerve damage caused by conditions such as MS, stroke, spina bifida or diabetes
What Can Be Done To Help?
If you are suffering bowel incontinence it’s important to see your doctor to see if there is an underlying cause. It is also important to strengthen your pelvic floor. A major cause of bowel incontinence is weak pelvic muscles and nerve damage in the rectal area and you may find that pelvic floor exercise can improve bowel incontinence or even stop it altogether.
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Original article: Kegel8 Website