Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction

Bladder and bowel dysfunction means having issues with passing urine or stool. Common types of bladder and bowel dysfunction are incontinence and constipation.

There are two types of incontinence. One is stress incontinence. This is when urine leaks when you do things such as cough, sneeze, laugh, lift or jump. The other is urge incontinence. This is the strong need to pass urine or have a bowel movement with only seconds or minutes to reach the bathroom. Bowel dysfunction can include not being able to control when you pass stool, having trouble passing stool (constipation) or having infrequent bowel movements.

Common causes:

  • Damage to nervous system from disease or injury
  • Vaginal childbirth
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Pelvic surgery
  • Pelvic radiation

Common treatments:

  • Get more fiber. This can help with diarrhea and constipation. Both can lead to bladder and bowel incontinence.
  • Take medicine to help control your bowels, such as anti-diarrhea medicines.
  • Go to the bathroom at scheduled times to give you better control.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that may irritate the bladder and bowels.
  • Do Kegel exercises. These can help strengthen your pelvic floor and help you have better control of your bladder. If the cause of your symptoms is pelvic floor dysfunction, you may want to avoid Kegels. If you have been told you have pelvic floor dysfunction, check with your doctor first before starting Kegels.

Some people find relief from nerve stimulation therapy, also called Sacral Neuromodulation. This is an FDA approved treatment for both urge incontinence and fecal incontinence/accidental bowel leakage. This stimulates pelvic nerves and may give you better muscle control for your bladder or bowel function. In rare cases, a person may need surgery to help with damage to muscles or nerves. Always talk to your doctor about what is best for you before starting new drugs or treatments.

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