The A-Z of passive incontinence
Welcome to our second A-Z guide designed to help you understand some of the lesser known incontinence conditions. This week, we’ll be dealing with ‘passive incontinence’, a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. If you missed it, you can find the first A-Z guide on functional incontinence here.
What is passive incontinence?
Passive incontinence is a type of faecal (or bowel) incontinence. Unlike urge incontinence, where you feel a need to pass a stool but are not able to control it, with passive incontinence you don’t actually realise you need to go to the toilet. This means that you can end up passing stool or mucus from your anus without knowing it. For this reason, passive incontinence is often associated with the term ‘faecal leakage’.
What are the most common causes of passive incontinence?
This type of bowel incontinence can be caused by a lack of sensation in your rectum, which stops your body from realising that your bowel is full and that you need to go to the toilet. There are many causes of this, but often it is a result of frequent bouts of diarrhoea or constipation.
- Constipation: It might sound counterintuitive, but actually constipation can cause your stools to become hard and dry and difficult to pass. This impaction can then put pressure on the walls of the rectum and cause damage to the nerves that control your bowel movements. As a result, loose and watery stools could leak out.
- Diarrhoea: The link with passive incontinence is probably clearer in this case! It is harder to control loose stools when you suffer from chronic diarrhoea, which can lead to the feeling that your bowel has a mind of its own.
Of course, there are other more specific causes of passive incontinence, and your healthcare professional is the person best placed to assess your symptoms and give you a proper diagnosis. If you’re nervous about discussing faecal leakage, take a look at our guide entitled ‘How can I get help?’.
What treatments are available for passive incontinence?
Treatments for bowel incontinence depends on the particular cause (that’s why we’re so keen you visit a healthcare professional!). Many people turn to adult nappies as a solution, since you can find them in the supermarket and they can protect against unwanted accidents. However, at WFIPP we recommend that these are only used as a last resort rather than a first-line treatment. That’s because there are many solutions available for people with faecal incontinence or leaking, and the hope is to find a cure for the condition, not just a safety net. We’ve created a dedicated section on our website that describes all the main types of available treatments, from simple pelvic floor exercises through to advanced therapies such as sacral neuromodulation. Take a look!
What are the best passive incontinence tips for carers?
Caring for someone who leaks stools, mucus or gas without knowing it can be a delicate task. It can be difficult to raise the subject for fear of making the person uncomfortable, but without an honest conversation it is difficult to find a solution. Getting the person to a doctor is an important step, but there are also some useful tips for handling the situation at home. One idea is to make some alterations to their diet, in order to remove foods and drinks that can aggravate the condition. Furthermore, if the situation is creating skin irritations then you can change clothing frequently, and make sure that the rectum is cleaned properly and allowed to dry. There is a lot of support available for incontinence carers, and you can find some of the best resources on our platform.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful – there’ll be more to come!
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