Nerves that help your bowels work smoothly can be damaged after a brain or spinal cord injury. People with multiple sclerosis also have similar problems with their bowels. Symptoms may include loss of control, diarrhea (loose bowel movements), or constipation (hard bowel movements).
A daily bowel care program can help you avoid embarrassment and spend less time on bowel care if you work with your doctor or nurse.
Keeping active helps to prevent constipation. Try to walk, if you can. If you are in a wheelchair, ask your doctor or nurse about exercises.
Eat plenty of food that is high in fiber. Read labels on packages and bottles.
Have a routine. Once you find a bowel routine that works, stick with it.
Use K-Y jelly, petroleum jelly, or mineral oil to help lubricate your rectal opening.
You may need to insert your finger into the rectum. Your nurse can show you how to gently stimulate the area to help with bowel movements. Sometimes, you may need to remove some of the stool.
You may need to use an enema, stool softener, or laxative for a period of time until the stool size is smaller and it is easier to have a bowel movement.
Following a regular bowel program may often help prevent accidents. Learn to be aware of small signs that you need to have a bowel movement such as:
Questions to ask yourself if you lose control of your bowels:
Other tips include:
Be aware of foods that stimulate your bowel or cause diarrhea. Common examples are milk, fruit juice, raw fruits, and beans or legumes.
Make sure you are not constipated. Some people with very bad constipation have problems with stools leaking or fluid leaking around the stool.
Call your doctor if you notice:
Incontinence - care; Dysfunctional bowel - care; Neurogenic bowel - care
Rao, SSC. Fecal incontinence. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 17.
Updated by: Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Inc.
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