​Bowel dysfunction

If you are experiencing bowel dysfunction, or commonly referred to as incontinence, (the inability to control your bowels), you may find it uncomfortable to talk about it with your doctor. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, millions of Americans have this problem. It affects people of all ages and is more common in women and older adults. There's no need to be embarrassed or live with bowel incontinence. The good news is that bowel control problems are manageable and treatable.

We understand the challenges of this condition. At our Pelvic Floor Center, specialists called urogynecologists and colorectal specialists diagnose and treat your bowel incontinence, so you can get back to enjoying your life.

Bowel incontinence can range from occasional leakage of a small amount of stool to a complete loss of bowel control. For many women, this condition results in social isolation and has a severe impact on the quality of their lives.

Bowel dysfunction causes

Normal bowel control depends on the proper function of your pelvic muscles, rectum (the lower end of the large intestine), sphincter muscles (the muscles in the anus), and nervous system. Bowel incontinence is usually caused when one or more of these body parts stops working properly.

Causes of bowel incontinence include:

  • Certain foods

  • Childbirth by vaginal delivery

  • Chronic laxative abuse

  • Complication from bowel surgery

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Hemorrhoids (swollen and inflamed veins around your anus or in your lower rectum)

  • Loss of stretch in the rectum

  • Muscle damage or weakness

  • Nerve damage

  • Physical or mental disability

  • Radiation treatment for cancer

  • Rectal prolapse (when the rectum falls from its normal position within the pelvic area)

  • Tumors in the rectum

  • Vaginal prolapse (when the vagina falls from its normal location inside the pelvis)

Bowel dysfunction risk factors

Factors that can increase your risk for having bowel incontinence are:

  • Diarrhea three or more times a day

  • Difficult childbirth with injuries to the pelvic floor

  • Disease of the nervous system

  • Poor overall health

  • A sense of urgency prior to a bowel movement

Bowel dysfunction symptoms

Bowel incontinence may happen to you only occasionally or it may be a total lack of control. You should visit your doctor and discuss your symptoms if you are experiencing:

  • An inability to hold in gas

  • An inability to reach the bathroom in time

  • Frequent or occasional accidental leakage

  • Silent leakage of feces during daily activities

When to see a doctor

Although many people are reluctant to talk to their doctor about symptoms of bowel incontinence, it is important for you to see your doctor if you start having any of the above symptoms. Treatment is available and there is no need to suffer in silence.

Do you think you have bowel incontinence? Discuss your concerns with one of our specialists.

At our Pelvic Floor Center, our multidisciplinary team provides a complete range of the most advanced diagnostic and treatment options available for bowel incontinence and other pelvic floor condition.

Do you have more questions about your bowel function but not yet ready to make an appointment with a doctor? Contact our ezCare Concierge nurse navigator, a free, confidential service designed to help you navigate the best next steps for you and your health. 

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