What Is Bowel Incontinence? How Common Is This Condition?

Bowel incontinence (inability to control the bowels) is a common problem plaguing about one out of 12 U.S. adults. Symptoms include unexpected leakage of stool (liquid to solid) or gas from the rectum. Social stigma and embarrassment may cause patients to delay discussing bowel control issues with their doctors. However, people are often surprised to learn their problems are caused by an underlying – and often treatable – medical condition. The Bowel Incontinence Clinic at Centers for Gastroenterology is here to help alleviate the symptoms of chronic bowel incontinence in patients who have not had success with more conservative bowel incontinence treatments in the Northern Colorado area.

Directed by Dr. Crystal North and Sharon Margraf, NP, our clinic is proud to be part of Centers for Gastroenterology, which has offered premium healthcare for our Northern Colorado neighbors for more than 40 years. Our dedicated team of experts has developed a proven protocol to diagnose and treat fecal incontinence successfully. Please call today to schedule an appointment with our caring staff.

What Are the Causes of Bowel Incontinence?

The most important things to remember about bowel incontinence are that it’s not something to be ashamed of – doctors see it all the time – and it’s something that can be treated. Contrary to public myths, bowel incontinence is not likely to get better on its own over time, and it is not just a normal part of the aging process. Affecting nearly 18 million U.S. adults, bowel incontinence is more common than you may think. Women experience this condition more often than men, but it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Common bowel incontinence causes include all of the following:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (sometimes caused by Crohn’s disease)
  • Severe or long-lasting diarrhea or constipation
  • Severe hemorrhoids or tumors in the rectum caused by rectal cancer
  • Damage to the muscles or nerves used to control bowels (often during childbirth)
  • Chronic conditions affecting the nerves, including diabetes, strokes, spina bifida, or Alzheimer’s
  • Rectal prolapse, in which the rectum drops down into the anus
  • Rectocele, in which the rectum protrudes through the vagina
  • Long-term laxative abuse
Bowel Incontinence Treatment in Northern Colorado

What Are the Symptoms of Bowel Incontinence?

The severity of bowel incontinence can vary from being unable to control breaking wind to leaking small amounts of feces. Episodes can occur daily, weekly, or monthly. No matter how mild or severe the condition, it can affect a person’s overall quality of life, taking a toll on their self-esteem, as well as their physical, emotional, and mental health. While bowel incontinence symptoms may vary from person to person, these are among the most common:

  • Sudden, uncontrollable urges to poo (not just a one-off accident)
  • Unexpected leakage of stool (liquid or solid) or gas from the rectum
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Uncontrolled or frequent flatulence
  • Bloating or cramping in the abdomen
  • An itchy or irritated anus
  • Urinary incontinence

What Are the Recommended Treatments for Bowel Incontinence?

While mild cases of bowel incontinence may resolve themselves naturally over time, chronic or severe bowel incontinence will typically require treatment. Bowel incontinence treatment seeks to restore bowel control, or at the very least, reduce the severity of bowel incontinence symptoms. Conservative bowel incontinence treatments may include medications to reduce diarrhea or constipation, over-the-counter incontinence products such as pads, diet modifications to avoid foods that trigger diarrhea, or pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles that control the bowels. We may suggest taking anti-diarrheal medications or a laxative to combat the issue in the short term, as well as keeping a food diary to see if certain foods trigger the condition more than others.

Drinking more fluids or eating foods high in fiber helps many patients suffering from bowel incontinence or constipation issues. However, surgery may be recommended to repair or replace a severely damaged or weakened anal sphincter in some cases. A colostomy may also be suggested in which a hole in the colon and the abdomen wall diverts stool into an attached bag that must be emptied regularly by the patient. Talk to your doctor to determine the best bowel incontinence treatment for you.

What Is InterStim (Sacral Neuromodulation for Bowel Control)?

InterStim therapy for bowel control is indicated for the treatment of chronic bowel incontinence in patients who have failed or are not candidates for more conservative treatments. Sacral Neuromodulation (InterStim) is a minimally invasive option that can restore bowel function. Sacral Neuromodulation for Bowel Control is effective, safe, and may offer patients an improved quality of life.

Concerned About Bowel Incontinence? Schedule an Appointment!

If you’re concerned about bowel incontinence symptoms you or a loved one may be experiencing, Centers for Gastroenterology would love to help ease your mind. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation with one of our experienced physicians. We’ll go over the best bowel incontinence treatments at our clinics in Northern Colorado to help you improve your health and quality of life. For your convenience, you may view and download our patient forms prior to your appointment.