5 conditions that can cause uncontrolled bowel movements

There are several conditions that could affect control over your bowels.
There are several conditions that could affect control over your bowels.

Urinary incontinence has been discussed at length on Health24, but the sad truth is that many people also experience faecal incontinence.

In fact, according to a recent study, as many as one in five adult women suffers from uncontrolled bowel movements. This is also a problem in men, but tends to be more common in women.

Here are the five most common conditions that can lead to faecal incontinence:

1. Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be caused by many conditions such as a viral or bacterial stomach infection, food poisoning, too much alcohol or a drastic change in diet. An involuntary bowel movement can, however, be more debilitating when it’s caused by a chronic disease such as irritable bowel syndrome.

2. Nerve damage

Any damage or injury to the nerves that make you feel the sensation of stool in the rectum or that control the anal sphincter could cause incontrollable bowel movements. Nerve damage can be caused by many factors such as childbirth or constant straining (if you suffer from chronic constipation).

Other chronic diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also cause damage to the nerve points near the rectum if left unmanaged.

Physical injury to the spinal cord as the result of an accident can also cause nerve damage.

3. Radiation treatment

Radiation around the area of the scrotum and rectum is often applied as treatment for prostate cancer. While radiation is designed to zap the cancerous cells, the surrounding healthy cells may also be affected, causing injury that can lead to faecal incontinence.

Doctors do their best to eliminate exposure that may cause these side-effects, but the risk is always present.

4. Stroke

After an event such as a stroke, cognitive function can become impaired. There are many reasons why this may happen. The area of the brain that controls bowel movements may become impaired as a result of a stroke, or a patient might not be fully conscious and may have a bowel movement without being aware of it.

5. Alzheimer’s

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, many people experience either urinary or faecal incontinence in the later stages of the disease. This can be caused by various factors. A person can become unable to realise that they need to go to the loo, they may forget where the bathroom is located, or physical impairment or a loss of motor skill might make it difficult for them to get to the bathroom or remove clothing in time.

How to manage faecal incontinence

Faecal incontinence has a far-reaching impact on the quality of a patient's life. Here are a few tips on how a caretaker can help:

  • Be supportive and never make the patient feel more embarrassed than they may already be.
  • Make the toilet as user-friendly as possible and avoid any obstructions.
  • Respect the patient's need for privacy.
  • Be aware of nonverbal signs such as facial expressions or restlessness that may indicate the need to go to the bathroom when the person has lost the ability to talk.
  • If the faecal incontinence is caused by IBS, learn how to manage the condition by discussing possible medication with the patient's medical professional.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 1121 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 6232 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 1300 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.