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Managing bowel incontinence

Leakage from your bowel tht you can't control may be something that happens once, only very occasionally, or more frequently. Whatever the frequency, it can lead to uncertainty and worry.

Like anyone else, you might get diarrhoea through infections, having an upset stomach from eating bad food, from antibiotics or medications.

But bowel incontinence in MS is often linked to constipation – stools become impacted in the bowel and there is leakage around them. There are other possible causes too.

Continence advisers are there to help.

You can self-refer to many NHS Continence Advisory Services, though in some cases you may need a referral from your GP. For details of your nearest service, contact the Bladder and Bowel Community.

The first step to getting help

An assessment is generally the first step to managing bowel incontinence.

A thorough assessment will help a health professional to work out if the problem is likely to be MS or other factors, to assess the extent of any nerve or muscle damage and to recommend the best treatment for you.

They have to ask you a lot of questions to see how they can help you. It may seem embarrassing or intrusive but it is best to answer fully. They’ll ask questions about how often you poo and what it looks like, the food you eat and how much fluid you drink, also your medical history and what medication you take (including laxatives).

They might also ask you to keep a diary showing when go poo (or try to), when you have a bowel accident and what you eat and drink

With your permission, the doctor or nurse might look at your bottom and belly. They might put a gloved, lubricated finger inside your bottom to check how well your sphincter works. You might need tests and scans to check how your insides are working.

Tips for managing bowel incontinence

Managing day to day

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