Can bowel leakage be caused by a stroke?
The short answer: yes. In fact, it is estimated that around 50% of stroke patients will suffer from incontinence, although this is often only temporary – only 15% of people have issues that continue for longer than a year after their stroke. Keep reading to find out the reasons how a stroke can cause faecal incontinence and bowel leakage, as well as some options for treatments that can help improve quality of life.
What causes stroke-related bowel leakage?
After a stroke, a person may suffer from ‘reflex incontinence’, which means that they may soil themselves without realising because they are not fully conscious or aware of their surroundings. In addition, a stroke may damage parts of the brain that control the bowel. Stroke patients may also have difficulties removing clothing in time to go to the toilet, or communicating their bathroom needs to others. Finally, after a stroke it may become more difficult to remain active, which combined with certain medications can cause constipation and therefore bowel issues.
What treatments are available for bowel leakage?
On the website, we divide incontinence treatments into ‘first-line’, ‘advanced’, ‘self-care products’ and ‘alternatives’. We recommend reading these sections in-depth to get an overview of the options that are available to you. And as we will keep repeating – the best way to find a suitable treatment is to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional. So if you haven’t done so already, make an appointment today!
In the meantime, you can find some top information about bowel leakage treatments below:
- Lifestyle changes: A healthy balanced diet with lots of fibre and around 6-8 glasses of water a day can help keep stools at the right consistency. It’s also a good idea to avoid caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks and spicy foods.
- Behavioural treatments: Bowel retraining and establishing a toilet routine can help bowel leakage caused by a stroke.
- Pelvic floor exercises: The muscles that control the bowel can be weakened after a period of inactivity following a stroke. Strengthening these can help avoid bowel leakage and improve your quality of life.
- Self-care products: Incontinence pads and ‘adult nappies’ can be a good back-up if you are worried about bowel leakage, especially when you’re out and about. Whilst we don’t recommend them as the only solution (there are other treatments that can get to the root of the problem), we do realise that they can help many people feel more in control of their condition.
- Medical therapies and treatments: Antidiarrhea drugs can help slow down your digestive system, to avoid diarrhoea. And if your bowel incontinence hasn’t responded to other treatments, then bulking agents can be another option.
- Surgical treatments: If your bowel leakage is caused by a damaged anal sphincter, rectal prolapse, or internal haemorrhoids (or if it you have very severe faecal incontinence), then surgery may be a route to consider. Your healthcare professional can provide you with further information on these options.
- Sacral neuromodulation: This specialized procedure can help restore the bowel to regular function after a stroke. Read more about it on the website.
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