There are lots of treatments for bowel incontinence that can help reduce the impact it has on your life.
Do not try to deal with it by yourself. The best treatments depend on what the underlying problem is, so see a GP to help find out the cause.
Incontinence products can help stop you soiling your clothes. They may be available on the NHS, or you may have to pay for them.
Products that can help include:
- foam plugs you put in your bottom to prevent leaks
- pads you wear inside your underwear
- a special key (Radar key) that can help you access public toilets
Incontinence products can be useful as a short-term measure, but they do not deal with the underlying problem and are not a long-term solution on their own.
If your incontinence is linked to constipation or diarrhoea, you may be advised to make some changes to your diet.
For example, you can help reduce constipation by:
- eating more high-fibre foods like fruit, vegetables, beans and wholegrain foods (such as wholemeal bread)
- drinking plenty of fluids, especially water
You can help reduce diarrhoea by:
- cutting down on high-fibre foods
- avoiding alcohol and drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea and coffee
- avoiding products that contain a sweetener called sorbitol
You may sometimes be prescribed medicine to reduce incontinence, such as:
These medicines can also be bought from pharmacies, but they're not always suitable if you have incontinence – only try them on the advice of a doctor or continence specialist.
If laxatives do not help your constipation, medicine that you put into your bottom to clear your bowels (an enema) may be recommended.
If other treatments have not helped, you may be referred to a specialist continence service for further treatments, such as pelvic floor exercises.
These are exercises, taught by a physiotherapist or specialist nurse, that can help strengthen the muscles used to control the opening and closing of your bowels.
A technique called biofeedback may sometimes be used with pelvic floor exercises. You place a small device in your bottom while doing the exercises and it tells you how well you're doing them.
A treatment called bowel retraining may be recommended by a continence specialist.
This is a treatment programme that involves things like:
- making changes to your diet to reduce constipation or diarrhoea
- creating a regular routine for going to the toilet – for example, always going after meals
- learning ways to help you empty your bowels – for example, having a hot drink or changing how you sit on the toilet
Surgery for bowel incontinence will only be considered if other treatments do not help.
The aim of surgery is usually to help you have better control over the muscles in your bottom (anus).
There are several procedures including:
- an operation to repair damaged muscles in your anus (sphincteroplasty)
- placing a small electronic device under your skin that helps the muscles and nerves in your anus work better (sacral nerve stimulation)
- injecting a substance (such as silicone) into the muscles in your anus to help make them stronger (injectable bulking agents)
Very occasionally, a procedure called a colostomy may be considered. This is where your bowel is diverted through a hole made in your tummy so your poo can be collected in a bag.