Living with bowel issues

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional Medical advice and should not be interpreted to contain treatment recommendations. You should rely on the healthcare professional who knows your individual history for personal medical advice and diagnosis.

Learn more about bowel problems, bowel leakage and chronic constipation Introduction to bowel problems If you experience bowel leakage and/or chronic constipation due to neurogenic bowel, you are not alone. Bowl problems may significantly impact your quality of life, cause physical discomfort, or cause you to fear having a bowel accident in public. Learn more about bowel problems
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Introduction to bowel problems

Going to the bathroom  to have a bowel movement is considered a private matter that  most people take for granted. So, when you suddenly experience a problem with your bowels (such as leakage or constipation) you may feel rather isolated and embarrassed. The two most common problems people experience are bowel leakage and constipation. Bowel leakage (also called bowel incontinence or fecal incontinence) happens when you cannot control when stool is released from the rectum. Constipation happens when you experience difficulty in moving your bowels.

Is it common to have a bowel problem?

It may be embarrassing to speak out about your bowel problems. Since people may feel embarrassed to talk about this issue, the exact number of people affected by bowel problems is unknown. However,  bowel problems are more common than you might think:

 

  • Studies suggest that approximately 2% of the adult population have daily or weekly bowel leakage episodes
  • The prevalence for adults over 65 years is 7%, and in retirement homes it’s as high as 33%
  • Studies indicate that up to 20% of the population have problems with constipation

Without proper treatment and management, bowel problems may affect quality of life and prevent people from doing the things they enjoy.  

Find out more

Read more about causes and symptoms of bowel problems and how to take control of your bowel.

Test your bowel symptoms

If you are experiencing episodes of bowel (fecal) incontinence and/or chronic constipation, we recommend you consult your healthcare provider. To prepare yourself for the consultation, you can take a short self assessment test that both indicates the severity of your symptoms and gives your doctor relevant insights to decide on a proper treatment option.

 

Test your bowel symptoms now.

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Good to know

Neurogenic bowel is a lack of nervous control which prevents the bowel from functioning effectively What is neurogenic bowel? Neurogenic bowel is a condition where there is damage to the nerves that control bowel function. Learn more about neurogenic bowel
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What is neurogenic bowel?

Neurogenic bowel can be described as slow movement of stools, constipation, bowel leakage, and difficulty emptying the bowel. Control of the external anal sphincter muscles may also be disrupted, increasing the risk of bowel accidents. 

There are two main types of neurogenic bowel dysfunction:

  • Reflex bowel  
  • Flaccid bowel

Reflex bowel

Reflex bowel causes loss of the ability to feel when the bowel is full. Although the anal sphincter muscle (the muscle that keeps the anus closed) remains tight, it will open on a reflex basis when the rectum becomes full and, therefore, the bowel can empty at any time. Reflex bowel can occur when the spinal cord is damaged above the T12 level.

Spinal cord

Flaccid bowel

Flaccid bowel is when the anal sphincter muscle (that normally keeps the anus closed) becomes relaxed and stays open, often leading to accidental emptying of the bowel. Flaccid bowel is generally caused by damage below the T12 level.

One cause of neurogenic bowel is spinal cord injury (SCI). The impact on bowel function depends on the level of spinal cord injury and where the damage occurs (as mentioned above).

Other possible causes of neurogenic bowel include multiple sclerosisspina bifida and Parkinson’s disease. 

Find out more

If you have neurogenic bowel it can be properly managed. Learn more about symptoms and how to take care of your bowel.

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Symptoms of bowel problems can be difficult to talk about Bowel symptoms Symptoms of bowel problems can be difficult to talk about. Knowing the signs and symptoms may help you to discuss this personal issue with a healthcare provider. Learn more about bowel symptoms
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Bowel symptoms

Bowel symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause. The most common bowel problems people experience are:

Bowel leakage

Bowel leakage is the involuntary passage of stool e.g. you cannot control when stool is released, often resulting in bowel accidents.

Constipation

There is no exact science to what constitutes constipation as the symptoms vary from person to person. It is often characterized by decreased bowel movements (less than 3 times a week) and straining at defecation.

Overflow incontinence

This is a combination of bowel leakage and constipation. You can be constipated, but still experience loose stool that leaks past the hard stool.

 

Typical symptoms of bowel leakage

  • Feeling the urge to have a bowel movement but not being able to control when your bowels release stool, resulting in a bowel accident (urge incontinence)
  • Leaking stools (passive incontinence)
  • Soiling of underwear
  • Being unable to control loss of stool when you pass air (flatus)

Typical symptoms of constipation

  • Inability to have a bowel movement
  • Bloating
  • Discomfort
  • Severe stomach ache
  • Spending long amounts of time trying to pass stool

When to get in contact with your healthcare provider

A lot of people who experience bowel problems may be reluctant to go and talk to their healthcare provider, as bowel problems are very private, personal, l and potentially an embarrassing subject. It is important to go and seek help, otherwise you may find that your bowel problems start to impact your daily life. 

 

Test your bowel symptoms

If you are experiencing episodes of fecal incontinence and/or chronic constipation, we recommend you to consult your health care provider To prepare yourself for the consultation, you can take a simple self assessment test that both indicates the severity of your symptoms and gives your doctor relevant insights to decide on a proper treatment option.
Test your bowel symptoms now.

Find out more

Read more about causes of bowel problems and how to manage of your bowel.

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Most common causes of bowel problems Causes of bowel problems Having bowel problems is not a disease in itself. There is usually an underlying cause as to why your bowels may not be functioning properly. Most common causes of bowel problems
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Causes of bowel problems

It is important to understand that having bowel problems are not disease. There is usually an underlying cause as to why your bowels may not be functioning properly. Common causes of bowel problems can be related to either neurogenic or non-neurogenic disorders.

Neurogenic disorders

If you have a neurogenic disorder, you may have neurogenic bowel as it is likely the nerves in your spinal cord, controlling bowel function, are damaged. Some neurogenic conditions causing bowel problems include:

Non-neurogenic disorders

Bowel problems can also be caused by a number of non-neurogenic conditions including:

  • Obstetric trauma - complications after childbirth, where the sphincter muscles have been damaged leading to the inability to control when you go to the toilet. 
  • Cancer of the colon or rectum: Cancer of the colon or rectum describes the uncontrolled growth of cells that may cause bowel dysfunction. Some people have an inherited condition called familial polyposis, where large numbers of projecting, swollen and thickened areas of membrane called polyps, which develop on the inner lining of the colon. These polyps can eventually become cancerous.
  • Anorectal malformation from birth - even with surgical correction, you can still experience bowel leakage episodes. 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a collection of conditions characterized by inflammation of the large and/or small intestine. 

Test your bowel symptoms

If you are experiencing episodes of fecal incontinence and/or chronic constipation, we recommend you to consult your healthcare provider. To prepare yourself for the consultation, you can take a simple self-assessment test that both indicates the severity of your symptoms and gives your doctor relevant insights to decide on a proper treatment option.

Test your bowel symptoms now.

Find out more

Read more about neurogenic bowel and how you take care of your bowel.

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How the bowel works - learn more about the main functions

How the bowel works

The bowel (intestine) is the lower part of the digestive system- a continuous tube that runs from the mouth to the anus. The digestive system absorbs nutrients from the food we eat and eliminates the waste products we cannot use.

Learn more about the main functions
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How the bowel works

How the bowel functions

The bowel is divided into the small intestine and the large intestine (colon, rectum and anus). The main function of the small intestine is to absorb nutrients released from the food digested in the stomach. The large intestine absorbs water from food and forms semi-solid and solid food waste into stools, which are eliminated from the body through the anus. Waste product is moved along the digestive system by a wave of involuntary contractions (peristalsis).

The digestive system

The waste product is temporarily stored in the rectum. During normal defecation, when the rectum becomes full, it sends signals to the brain resulting in the urge to open the bowel. The two anal sphincters relax and allow stools to pass through the anus and out of the body. 

If your bowel does not work effectively, you may experience bowel leakage and/or constipation.

Bowel leakage

Bowel leakage is the involuntary passage of stool e.g. you cannot control when stool is released, often resulting in bowel accidents.

Constipation

There is no exact science to what constitutes constipation as the symptoms vary from person to person. It is often characterized by decreased bowel movements (usually less than 3 times a week) and straining at defecation. 

Neurogenic bowel

Neurogenic bowel is a condition where there is damage to the nerves that control  bowel function and may be caused by a neurogenic disorder like spinal cord injurymultiple sclerosis and spina bifida.

Find out more

Learn more about symptoms and causes of bowel problems and neurogenic bowel.

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Frequently asked questions about bowel problems Frequently asked questions about bowel problems Find answers to the most commonly asked questions about bowel problems. FAQ's about bowel problems
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Frequently asked questions about bowel problems

This FAQ is intended as a guide to commonly asked questions. You should always consult your healthcare provider regarding bowel problems and bowel management routines.

How does the bowel work?

The bowel is the last section of the digestive system and is divided into the small intestines and the large intestines (the colon, rectum and anus). The main function of the small intestine is to absorb nutrients from food digested in the stomach. The main function of the large intestine is to absorb water and to form stools from any waste products that cannot be used by the body. Stools are discharged from the body via the rectum and anus. View a video animation of how the bowel works.

What is bowel leakage?

Bowel leakage occurs when you cannot control when your bowels open, resulting in a bowel accident. The condition can range from minor leakage and soiling of underclothes to complete and uncontrolled emptying of the rectum. 

What is constipation?

The symptoms vary from person to person but are often characterized by decreased bowel movements, bloating, discomfort, straining and spending long amounts of time try to pass stool. 

What are the causes of bowel problems?

Bowel problems can be caused by a number of different conditions – some relatively minor and some potentially life threatening. Neurogenic causes include spinal cord injury, spina bifida and multiple sclerosis. Non-neurogenic causes include obstetric trauma (sphincter muscle damage after childbirth), cancer of the bowel or colon, Inflammatory bowel disease. This list is by no means exhaustive.

What is neurogenic bowel?

Neurogenic bowel is a condition where there is damage to the nerves that control bowel function. The effect on bowel function depends on where the spinal cord is damaged.

How can bowel problems affect my lifestyle?

Bowel leakage and constipation can be very uncomfortable, and they also have a significant impact on our quality of life. Apart from the frequent physical discomfort and bloating, you may worry about having an accident in public. It makes it important to find a way to manage your bowel.

What can I do to manage my bowel problems?

Bowel problems can often be improved by changing diet; there are also several types of medication that can help. Transanal irrigation can be used to help prevent constipation and bowel leakage.

How can I prepare for my conversation with my doctor?

To prepare yourself for the consultation with your health care provider, you can take a simple self-assessment test that both indicates the severity of your symptoms and gives your doctor relevant insights to decide on a proper treatment option.

Test your bowel symptoms now.

Find out more

Read more about Peristeen®,* a bowel irrigation system, for predictable bowel management.

 

 

Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

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Frequently asked questions about bowel irrigation Frequently asked questions about bowel irrigation Find answers to the most commonly asked questions about bowel irrigation. FAQ's about bowel irrigation
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Frequently asked questions about bowel irrigation

This FAQ is intended as a general guide meant to help you with typical questions. You should always follow the specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider.

What is bowel irrigation?

Bowel irrigation is where water is introduced into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The water stimulates the bowel and flushes out the stool, leaving the lower half of the bowel empty. It is important to do it regularly to prevent constipation and the risk of bowel accidents. Read more about Coloplast’s bowel irrigation system, Peristeen®.*

Where can I get Peristeen®?

In order to use Peristeen, you need to get a prescription from your physician or nurse. You must also always consult an experienced healthcare professional before starting up the irrigation procedure and you must receive thorough instruction from a healthcare provider before using this product.

How often should I irrigate?

Most people start with irrigating every day. It can take approximately 3 months to establish a regular routine. Once you have an established routine, irrigating every other day may work well. With time and practice, you will find out what works best for you. What is important, is to remember to irrigate regularly to prevent constipation and minimize the risk of bowel accidents. You should always follow the advice and instructions of your healthcare provider.

What time of the day is best for irrigating?

Try to get into a routine where you irrigate around the same time of the day. Eating and drinking helps the bowel’s natural movement, so about 30 minutes after a meal is a good time. But do not be afraid to change the routine slightly to suit your day-to-day routine. Remember, users performing anal irrigation should always follow the advice of their healthcare provider.

Can I travel with the irrigation equipment?

Yes – remember to bring your irrigation system along with lots of disposable catheters as you may not be able to buy them everywhere. If you are going to use the system abroad or in another country use bottled or cooled boiled water in places where the tap water is not safe to drink. Remember in different time zones your body may take a while to get used to a new routine. You may also be eating different types of food, which can affect the bowels.

What should I do if I leak between irrigations?

If you experience bowel leakage between irrigations, it may be due to insufficient emptying of your bowel due to constipation or hard stool. Alternatively, you may be using too much water during irrigation. Contact your doctor or nurse to help you adapt to your bowel plan and optimize your new bowel management program.

Find out more

For more information, watch the video about getting started with Peristeen.

 

* Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

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User stories

These videos reflect various user’s experience with Coloplast products. Coloplast invited these people to share their stories and provided compensation for participation in the video. Each person’s situation is unique; your experience may not be the same. Talk with your doctor about whether this product is right for you.

Watch Frederikke's story

Frederikke is now able to stay overnight with her friends

Since using Peristeen®, Frederikke can concentrate on being a teenager and doing the things young people like to do.

Watch Frederikke's story
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Frederikke is now able to stay overnight with her friends

Important Safety Information

Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

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Audrey tells about her life with Peristeen

Predictable bowel management gives Audrey confidence

Living independently, meeting people and taking up sports again – Peristeen® has helped Audrey feel a lot more at ease.

Audrey tells about her life with Peristeen
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Predictable bowel management gives Audrey confidence

Important Safety Information

Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

Close
Watch Kerry's story

Kerry no longer cancels visits with her children

Kerry has multiple sclerosis. She says, “Peristeen® enabled me to do a lot more for myself. It made me feel a lot more positive.” So much, that she now volunteers for the MS Society and helps people locally.

Watch Kerry's story
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Kerry no longer cancels visits with her children

Important Safety Information

Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

Close
Watch Carsten's experiences with Peristeen

Carsten has started go-karting

Using Peristeen® has helped Carsten have predictable bowel movements, which means he can live his life more spontaneously.

Watch Carsten's experiences with Peristeen
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Carsten has started go-karting

Important Safety Information

Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

Close
Watch Karine's story

Karine is relieved from her symptoms of constipation

Karine is a Peristeen® user with multiple sclerosis. Since using Peristeen, her symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain and nausea caused by chronic constipation have disappeared. In her own words, “I can got out and do what I want now. I can live my life.”

Watch Karine's story
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Karine is relieved from her symptoms of constipation

Important Safety Information

Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

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Barry talks about Peristeen

"It's about making your life better."

“At the end of the day, it’s making your life better," says Barry. Hear how Peristeen® helped him manage him manage his bowels.

Barry talks about Peristeen
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"It's about making your life better."

Important Safety Information

Important Safety Information:  Peristeen® empties the bowel by introducing water into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The anal irrigation procedure should always be carried out with care. Bowel perforation is an extremely rare, but serious and potentially lethal complication to anal irrigation and will require immediate admission to hospital, often requiring surgery. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provided to understand the risks and benefits to determine if Peristeen is right for you. This treatment is prescribed by your physician. Although many patients benefit from the use of this device, results may vary.

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