People with faecal incontinence have difficulty in controlling their bowel, resulting in the involuntary loss of flatus (wind), liquid or solid from the bowel at the wrong time or in the wrong place.
Faecal incontinence effects as many as 1 in every 100 people, many are also affected by urinary incontinence. Incontinence affects around four million men and women in Australia of all ages and backgrounds.
There are several causes of faecal incontinence:
- Muscle weakness – may be due to childbirth and types of surgery such as haemorrhoids
- Diarrhoea – due to infection, medications such as antibiotics, previous radiotherapy and specific bowel diseases such as Crohn’s
- Constipation and impaction – this is commonly characterised by hard bowel actions passed infrequently along with episodes of incontinence of diarrhoea
- Disorders of the nervous system – this may be the result of disease or injury to the nerves, for example; multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or stroke
- Disorders of the lower bowel such as anal fissure, haemorrhoids and cancer
Independence Australia stocks a range of incontinence products.
Everyone with faecal incontinence should have a comprehensive assessment. The following health care professionals are available for advice:
- General Practitioners, can assess, diagnose and treat incontinence. If necessary, they will refer patients on to specialists
- Continence Nurse Advisors are able to assess and help patients with a plan to manage their condition
- Physiotherapists will develop a specific pelvic floor exercise program to improve the management of incontinence
- Dieticians can provide expert nutrition and dietary advice
- Occupational therapists assist people of all ages to improve their ability to carry out day-to-day activities
- Pharmacists can offer advice on medication that may cause or aggravate incontinence
Handy tips to help individuals improve their bowel health include:
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes at least two fruits and five vegetables everyday
- Drink 1.5 to 2 litres per day (unless otherwise advised by your doctor). Water is recommended and remember to limit drinks that contain caffeine such as; tea, coffee, soft drinks and high energy drinks
- Exercise daily – 30 minutes of walking, gardening, swimming or cycling may help to improve your general health (you can break up the exercise into short periods)
- Discuss your medications with your Doctor – some medications can affect your bowel and/or bladder
- Take caution when using laxatives – always discuss long term use with your Doctor
There are a range of incontinence products and aids available to assist people with the management of faecal incontinence.
Click here to download a PDF copy of this article.
More health advice
View our wide range of continence health advice, tips and recommendations by visiting our continence hub or checking out our top articles below.
How to Manage Urinary IncontinenceWhat is urinary incontinence?Urinary incontinence is when you accidentally wet yourself (urinate) through loss of bladder control. In Australia, urinary incontinence affects up to 10% of men and up to 38% of women.It can mean leaking...
Ask the nurse: Can Pelvic Floor Muscle Training cure incontinence? Have you ever wished incontinence could be cured without surgery, pills, injections or side effects? Pelvic Floor Muscle Training has been around since 1948, with high level research showing all it...
Fluids intake and continenceWith the hotter weather approaching, we should be paying even more attention to a healthy fluid intake, every day. A consistently good fluid intake is needed for the healthy function of our entire body, not just the bladder and bowel. This...
This article is sponsored by Independence Australia, a social enterprise that provides choices for people living with a disability or other personal need, enabling them to regain and retain their independence within a supportive community.