Bowel incontinence or fecal incontinence occurs when stool or gas unexpectedly leaks. Bowel incontinence can be as mild as unintentionally leaking stool when passing gas, to a full loss of controlling the bowels. Several contributing factors may cause bowel incontinence, and this condition can affect people of all ages, not just older men and women.
Common Causes of Bowel Incontinence in Men
Normal functioning of the rectum, anus, and nervous system are all required to maintain continence and hold stool from leaking.
Bowel incontinence in men is usually the result of a complex mixture of factors that contribute to a weakening of the muscles that control your sphincter, which is the ring of muscle that controls the opening and closing of the anus that helps hold stool and gas until it can be eliminated.
Some of the common causes of bowel incontinence include:
- Constipation – Having three or fewer bowel movements in a single weak can significantly contribute to the weakening of the anus and intestines
- Chronic diarrhea – When loose or watery bowel movements are experienced three or more times a day and last for more than a few days, severe constipation could signify a more serious underlying disease.
- Prostate surgery – The first few weeks following prostate removal surgery (also known as prostatectomy), men may experience bowel incontinence due to the increased abdominal space with the loss of the prostate.
- Anal sphincter muscle damage – If the ring of muscle that controls the opening and closing of the anus is damaged, involuntary stool leakage can happen.
- Rectal prolapse – As a result of prolonged constipation or weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, rectal prolapse is when part of the rectum slips out of position and protrudes out of the anus.
- Chronic laxative abuse – When a person becomes dependent on laxatives for a long time, the colon stops reacting and requires a larger dose to achieve a bowel movement. Internal organs can be damaged and lead to colon infections and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Nervous system disorders – Having a stroke, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, or Multiple sclerosis can damage the nervous system and affect the nerves that sense stool in the rectum or the ability to control the anal sphincter.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea are all symptoms of IBS that can lead to bowel incontinence.
Possible Treatments for Bowel Incontinence in Men
Some treatments can help bowel incontinence in men. Treatment choice depends on the cause and severity of the disease as well as the person’s motivation and general health. Commonly, conservative measures are used together, and if appropriate, surgery is carried out.
- Diet changes – Keeping a daily food and beverage journal can help keep track of what type of foods may be causing your symptoms. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist if needed.
- Medications – Your doctor may prescribe or suggest over-the-counter medicines like bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate) or loperamide (Imodium) if you have diarrhea. If you are constipated, stool softeners, laxatives, or fiber supplements (Metamucil or Citrucel) may improve your fecal incontinence by stimulating the colon to move stool.
- Bowel retraining – This type of treatment program includes daily training to help regulate bowel movements using diet, various techniques, and sometimes medication. The program will be different for everybody because each person responds differently. Your doctor will help you develop the best course of action that is suited for your unique needs.
- Pelvic floor muscle strengthening – Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegel exercises). Through tightening and relaxing your pelvic area, anus, and rectum, this type of activity will help increase muscle strength and bowel and gas control.
- Surgery – In extreme or unmanageable cases, surgery can be carried out to improve bowel incontinence. Sphincteroplasty is a procedure that reconnects any anal sphincter tears that may have occurred from a man’s genitals or urinary area. Other surgery might treat other medical conditions that affect bowel incontinence, such as rectal prolapse or hemorrhoids.
Complications of Bowel Incontinence
Bowel Incontinence or fecal incontinence can be very stressful for those who experience it. It can cause emotional distress as well as skin irritation.
Emotional distress – When you lose control over your bodily functions, it can be embarrassing, frustrating, and depressing. This loss of dignity can lead to avoidance of social interaction and trying to hide the condition.
Skin irritation – When there is repeated contact with incontinence products such as toilet paper and personal care wipes, the sensitive and delicate perineal tissue around the anus can become irritated. This constant contact can lead to itching, pain, rashes, or potentially sores such as ulcers that require medical attention.
Managing Life with Bowel Incontinence
You can help manage bowel incontinence by always making sure to be well-stocked on bowel incontinence supplies, whether you are home or heading out. By following the bowel retraining program and using the toilet before you leave home, you can help lessen or possibly eliminate an embarrassing episode. You can also make sure you carry your medications, incontinence supplies, fecal deodorants, and a change of clothes with you.
The perineal tissue around the anus is sensitive and delicate. Therefore, anal discomfort, itching, and irritation can be common. Here are some ways to help manage these symptoms:
- Wash the anal area after each bowel movement or use personal care wipes. If you have a bidet, that would be even better. Some are affordable and very easy to install on your existing toilet.
- Try to keep the anal area clean and dry by frequently changing soiled underwear.
- Use a moisture-barrier cream in the anal area.
- Use disposable underwear, male guards, or body patches such as the Butterfly Fecal Pad by Attends.
Bowel incontinence in men is more common than you may think. You do not have to suffer in silence. Finding the right incontinence products for men and developing a plan with your doctor can help you overcome this condition and lead a life of dignity.
For questions about any of the bowel or fecal incontinence products or other incontinence supplies we carry, please give us a call or complete our Contact Us form. One of our Product Experts will be happy to help and guide you through your purchasing experience.