What Is the Link Between Bladder and Fecal Incontinence?


Incontinence is a widespread but infrequently discussed medical concern. It often is accompanied by social, emotional, psychological, and physical issues. Incontinence affects millions of individuals in the United States and could interfere with a person's quality of life from minor to significant ways. Individuals might experience bladder or fecal incontinence, or even a combination of both, which could range in the scale of intensity and dysfunction. Countless patients view talking about urinary or bowel incontinence as highly uncomfortable, even when it is with a medical provider, resulting in a barrier to proper care for countless people. Oftentimes, even sporadic occurrences of incontinence can inhibit a patient's desire to take part in outside events or activities. The notion of being away from home for an extended time or needing to rush to the restroom urgently keeps a lot of people from experiencing a normal standard of living. If you or someone you love experiences urinary or fecal incontinence (or both), know that you are not alone. There are treatments at hand to help you regain bladder and bowel control and improve your comfort and confidence. Uncontrolled fecal or urinary leakage is a considerable concern for numerous people throughout the United States. The board-certified gastroenterologists at GI Alliance offer expert medical care for incontinence problems, which includes an advanced option known as sacral neuromodulation (SNM). We encourage you to contact our GI experts today to find out more about urinary and fecal incontinence and to review your treatment options.

What leads to bladder leakage?

Identified as the loss of control over bladder or urinary functions, urinary incontinence causes individuals to unexpectedly pass urine. It is comprised of an array of concerns, such as overactive bladder (OAB) or urgency incontinence, overflow incontinence, stress incontinence, and urinary retention. The risk of developing this condition is greater for patients older than 50; however, adults in all age groups can be susceptible. As a matter of fact, the National Association for Continence states that more than 25 million individuals across the nation deal with bladder incontinence daily. Some of the common reasons for urinary incontinence include:

  • Being pregnant
  • Childbirth trauma
  • Damage to the pelvic muscles
  • Anatomical defects
  • Obesity
  • Surgery
  • Long-term constipation
  • Menopause
  • Damage to the nerves
  • Some medications
  • Pelvic infections
  • Caffeine consumption

What leads to bowel control problems?

While a lot of patients consider it humiliating to ask for help for urinary leakage, concern over bowel incontinence can be even more embarrassing to admit. Bowel dysfunction, or the inability to control bowel movements, can include anything from minor bowel leakage to a total loss of bowel control. As reported by the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, studies show that between 1.8 – 18% of individuals in the United States are impacted by fecal incontinence. Some of the more common causes of fecal incontinence are as follows:

  • Persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • Excessive laxative consumption
  • Irritable bowel diseases
  • Birth trauma
  • Surgery
  • Conditions involving the central nervous system (CNS)
  • Defects in normal anatomy
  • Nerve damage
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Muscle weakness due to age

Are bladder incontinence and bowel incontinence related?

Fecal and bladder incontinence affects double the number of women than men. Though they might arise singularly or concurrently, a physiological connection exists between these separate medical concerns. The brain and muscles responsible for bladder and bowel control regulate urinary and fecal capabilities. If neural pathways between the brain and these muscles become blocked, varying levels of incontinence might result. Overall, both urinary and bowel incontinence may occur when a person's brain fails to communicate properly with the muscles that regulate bladder and bowel tasks.

What are some effective treatment options for incontinence?

Treatment for cases of bladder and bowel incontinence generally begins with conservative options, including medications, altering diet and fluid consumption, and pelvic floor exercises. These therapeutic approaches might incorporate adding fiber to daily nutritional intake, or decreasing caffeine consumption and other products that have diuretic effects. When such approaches are not effective or people are not ideal candidates for conservative or more invasive procedures, the digestive health specialists at GI Alliance may recommend sacral neuromodulation treatment. Although several therapeutic options exist for treating urinary leakage, there are not a whole lot of methods for treating bowel incontinence outside of sacral neuromodulation.

What should you know about sacral neuromodulation?

Sacral neuromodulation treatment is a minimally invasive way to treat incontinence that involves the implantation of a mini electrical stimulator, similar to a pacemaker. The neurostimulator is inserted along the sacral nerve in the coccyx (tailbone), around the top portion of the buttocks. Approved for use in people ages 18 and over, SNM therapy is highly recommended by the American Society of Colorectal Surgeons and the American Society of Gastroenterology (after conservative treatment options). Sacral neuromodulation is an extended therapeutic solution that has offered successful treatment results for a large number of individuals. An additional advantage is that patients are able to try it in advance to find out how effective it might be for them.

In what way does sacral neuromodulation therapy work?

Adults who are candidates for sacral neuromodulation therapy frequently go through a 7 to 14-day trial period to begin the process. The sacral neuromodulation device is then positioned by way of a minimally invasive surgery carried out by a gastroenterologist at GI Alliance. SNM is a restorative approach that regulates the function of the pelvic structures by improving electrical signals between the brain and muscles responsible for bladder and bowel activities. The device is recharged by the patient at 2 to 4-week intervals by way of an external source and requires only a short time to recharge. Many sacral neuromodulation patients find the recharging process relatively simple and efficient overall.

Is sacral neuromodulation an effective way to treat incontinence?

GI Alliance is thrilled to provide SNM therapy as a safe, effective, and longer-term solution for addressing bladder or fecal incontinence among patients. It is clinically proven to treat conditions that include urinary incontinence, OAB, urinary retention, and bowel incontinence. Studies performed indicate that SNM therapy has a high rate of success and patient satisfaction rating for both bladder and fecal incontinence conditions, and also features a very high safety profile. It has proven successful in those for whom a conservative approach to therapy was not effective, can offer notable improvements in a person's quality of living, and is linked to much lower occurrences of incontinence episodes.

Find treatment for incontinence near you

The utilization of sacral neuromodulation has been paramount in providing a less invasive approach to control bladder and fecal incontinence, thus enhancing the livelihood of people affected by these conditions. At GI Alliance, we understand the embarrassment and issues adults face when it comes to bladder and fecal incontinence. Our experienced gastrointestinal specialists are pleased to offer expert solutions and confidential consultations to address these sorts of medical issues with the greatest care, respect, and clinical excellence. For further details on whether you may be a good candidate for sacral neuromodulation, contact a GI Alliance office near you to book a consultation with a gastrointestinal specialist.