Faecal incontinence (FI) is any bowel (poo) leakage, also known as ‘soiling’ or poor bowel control. About one in twenty Australians experience faecal incontinence, including thousands of young people. There are various causes for poor bowel control, and although it can be uncomfortable there are many ways to treat and manage the condition.
There are lots of causes for poor bowel control, including chronic constipation, problems with your pelvic floor muscles or underlying bowel diseases.
Constipation is the term for when your bowel doesn’t empty well. Sometimes your bowel motions (faeces/stool/poo) are less frequent, and sometimes you can have trouble going to the toilet because your bowel motions might be too hard and dry.
Severe constipation is the most common cause of faecal incontinence. This is because hard bowel motions may cause a small blockage high up the bowel, making watery bowel motions flow around the constipated stool (poo/faeces) without warning. A constipated bowel can also put pressure on the bladder and make urinary incontinence worse.
There are many other bowel diseases and conditions which contribute to faecal incontinence, like Crohn’s, Coeliac, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Sometimes neurological (brain) or spinal disorders or injuries can affect bowel health too.
If the doctor thinks constipation might be causing faecal incontinence, then a combination of laxatives (a type of medication that makes going to the toilet easier) and a toileting regime and dietary advice will often make up the treatment plan.
Treatments and management plans are different for everyone so it’s important to talk to your doctor to work out what’s best for you.
If you’d like to talk with a trained continence nurse about any bladder or bowels concerns, call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 for free anytime from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.
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