Also called feacal incontinence, this is defined as “the uncontrolled loss of solid or liquid stools, or of wind (gas) with accompanying leakage”.

Key facts about bowel incontinence (BI):

  • It is very common. About half a million adults in the UK cannot control their bowels as they would wish. Major bowel incontinence affects 1 in every 70 people over 40 years old. This figure rises to nearly 1 in 40 of the over 65s.
  • It also affects young people. After having a baby, more than 1 in 10 women sustain a tear which may result in difficulty in controlling bowel leakage or wind. This is most common in older mothers (over 35), where the baby is large or if assistance with forceps or a suction cup is required for delivery.
  • It is as common in men as in women, contrary to what was thought until recently.
  • It can be devastating. Few things are more embarrassing than a bowel accident that other people notice, and few conditions create so much anxiety. BI can result in the sufferer’s experiencing an almost constant fear that another episode may happen. In addition to the distress, this fear often severely restricts what the sufferer feels able to do in their daily life.
  • It has long been neglected. BI’s impact on quality of life was not addressed until 2001. Many people with BI remain untreated for years as they are too embarrassed to ask for help. This is a great pity as for a lot of people there are effective measures to prevent BI as well as treatments to help, or even cure, the problem. However, for some people with BI we still do not have completely effective treatments.