Handling Bowel Incontinence: Causes And Treatments

Many patients find discussing or dealing with bowel incontinence challenging. Those who are regularly faced with such issues find it embarrassing for both them and their loved ones. Nevertheless, it remains a topic that needs clarification. Let’s consider handling bowel incontinence: causes and treatments.

What Is Bowel Or Fecal Incontinencewoman talking to her urogynecologist about fecal incontinence

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is when bowel movements cannot be controlled. Stool or feces leaks out of the rectum when it is not supposed to, and it may happen with or without the person’s knowledge. It can range from a simple small leak to complete loss of bowel control.

Bowel incontinence happens more often in women and in older people.

Common examples of the condition are as follows:

  • Some stool leaks out when the person is passing gas
  • It can happen during physical activity or daily life exertions
  • Needing to go but not making it to the bathroom in time, known as urge incontinence
  • Stool remains in underwear after a normal bowel movement

Causes Of Bowel Incontinence

When someone develops bowel incontinence, it can be caused by one or several factors.

Muscle Damage

If there has been injury to the ring of muscles surrounding the anal sphincter, it becomes difficult to hold back a bowel movement. This can occur from childbirth, especially if forceps were used.


Chronic constipation causes muscles in the rectum and intestines to stretch out and weaken.


Loose stools are more difficult to keep in the rectum. Diarrhea can be caused by an infection or IBS.


The swollen veins in your rectum keep your anus from closing completely leading to incontinence.

Older Age And Lack Of Any Physical Activity

Older people, especially those in assisted living homes, can become completely sedentary leading to constipation. This in turn leads to fecal incontinence in combination with other causes noted here.

Nerve Damage

Injury to the nerves that normally “sense” stool in the rectum or those that control the anal sphincter can lead to bowel incontinence. This can happen from childbirth, constant straining when trying to go, spinal cord injury, or a stroke. Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and MS can also affect those nerves along with other neurological conditions.

Certain Surgeries

Surgeries, like treatment for colon cancer, can weaken muscles.

Rectal Prolapse

This is when the rectum drops into the anal canal causing the sphincter muscles to stretch and become weakened.

What Can Be Done

Basic changes in diet may help those with intermittent or mild bowel incontinence like eating more fiber. Talk with Dr. Costas Apostolis about other dietary changes that will help.

Bowel training can help. Scheduling going to the bathroom at the same time every day by setting up a pattern can help reduce fecal incontinence.

Other treatment options include the following:

  • Prescribed medications
  • Kegel exercises for younger patients
  • Avoid straining
  • Biofeedback to strengthen muscles
  • Surgical and non-surgical treatments
  • Colostomy for severe cases

Don’t despair if you or a loved one is suffering with bowel incontinence. There is help.

Request a Fecal Incontinence Treatment Consultation

Contact Dr. Costas Apostolis at (330) 953-3414 for diagnosis and to learn about all the available treatment options for bowel incontinence.

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