All You Need to Know About Managing Bowel Leakage
The symptoms of fecal incontinence, or bowel leakage, usually depend on the type. With fecal incontinence, individuals need to pass stool but are not able to control it before reaching a toilet. Sometimes, people pass stool without knowing it until they feel, see it or smell something, according to the National Institute of Health.
What Causes Fecal Incontinence
Fecal incontinence has many causes, including digestive tract disorders and chronic medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis and long-term diabetes, according to Medical News Today. Some causes of fecal incontinence, such as childbirth, occur only to women.
Diarrhea - Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools and is the most common risk factor for fecal incontinence.
Constipation - Constipation can lead to large, hard stools that are difficult to pass. The hard stools stretch and, over time, weaken the muscles in the rectum. The weakened muscles let watery stools that build up behind the hard stool leak out.
Muscle Injury or Weakness - If the muscles in the anus, pelvic floor or rectum are injured or weakened, they may not be able to keep closed, letting stool leak out.
Nerve Damage - If the nerves that control the anus, pelvic floor and rectum are damaged, the muscles can’t work the way they should. Damage to the nerves that signal when there is stool makes it hard to know when to go to the bathroom.
Neurological Diseases - Neurological diseases such as dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke as well as type 2 diabetes are some of the conditions that can affect the nerves of the anus, pelvic floor and rectum and cause fecal incontinence.
Scarring & Inflammation - If the rectum is scarred or inflamed, it may become stiff and unable to stretch to hold in stool. Surgery and radiation therapy as well as inflammatory bowel disease can cause also contribute to scarring and inflammation.
Hemorrhoids - Herommoids can keep the muscles around the anus from fully closing, which lets small amounts of stool and/or mucus leak out.
Rectal Prolapse - Rectal prolapse, which causes the rectum to drop down through the anus, can also keep the muscles from closing completely and releases stool or mucus.
People who are not physically active and spend many hours a day sitting or lying down may be holding a lot of stool in their rectums. In these cases, liquid stool sometimes leaks around more solid stool.
Similar to urinary incontinence, there are ways to help manage bowel incontinence, which can include medical diagnosis and treatment, medications, support groups and the use of absorbent products such as briefs, underwear as well as guards.
Best Adult Briefs & Diapers
Using the right products to contain potential leaks is essential to living a confident life outside the house. NorthShore.com recommends using plastic-backed, tab-style briefs for individuals with heavier incontinence. The exterior of the tab-style briefs helps in more than one way. Tab-style adult diapers with a plastic exterior are best for odor containment and also for resisting sagging. For those worried about leaks around the legs, briefs usually provide a tighter, more secure fit than underwear. Top-rated NorthShore Supreme Lite Briefs and Supreme Color Collection Briefs are two options known for their performance containing bowel incontinence.
For moderate bowel leakage, a liner such as NorthShore DynaDry Supreme may be all that is needed for day and night protection. It is uniquely designed for both bowel and urinary incontinence. The contoured liner is great for "catching" bowel movements in the back as well as urinary leaks in the front.
Using the right products is just the first step in managing bowel containment. Preventing skin breakdown is also important.
Skin & Odor Control Products
Skin health and integrity is a top priority with bowel leakage, especially when wearing disposable products. It's important to try and keep skin clean at all times to avoid breakdowns and infections. It's important to not overdry the skin so using specially made cleansers, creams and lotions can be helpful.
Heavy-Duty Quilted Wipes
Adult wipes are helpful during changes and when accidents happen. NorthShore Supreme Quilted Wipes are heavy-duty, strong and soft. Ideal for those with sensitive skin, they are hypoallergenic, unscented as well as alcohol-free. Extra large size (5" longer than NorthShore Baby Wipes).
Anyone who manages incontinence knows that leaving the house in case of an accident can be stressful. In addition to packing an extra change of clothes, consider disposal bags. DiscreetShield Disposal Bags are helpful in bagging and discarding soiled and smelly products on-the-go or at home. They are designed for adult-sized absorbent products and offer a fresh powder scent that masks unpleasant odors.
Absorbent products and helpful accessories can be essential when managing incontinence. Always talk to a doctor for help and information for personalized help and recommendations.
Advice, Resources & Help
See a doctor if you or someone you love thinks they have incontinence. Although some people try to manage mild or infrequent issues on their own, a health care professional should be consulted to help address symptoms.
Bowel Training - Scheduling bowel movements to gain more control when needed.
Bowel Retraining - Planning bowel movements at a certain time each day, including after meals to get the body on a regular schedule.
Pelvic Floor Training - Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor, rectum and anus. The constant tightening and relaxing may help those muscles become stronger.
Biofeedback - Can help build awareness and control over the body.
Sacral Nerve Stimulation - A small electrode is implanted on the sacral nerves near the tailbone that sends signals to the sphincter muscles to stop contracting.
Often, individuals managing incontinence are under a lot of stress. Support groups can help. Many national and local organizations offer a variety of education, information and resources. Support groups vary by organization, but many are now conveniently offered online.
Managing incontinence can be difficult but having the support, care and products needed can make it much easier to live a full life.