Incontinence - care; Dysfunctional bowel - care; Neurogenic bowel - care
Health conditions that cause nerve damage can cause problems with how your bowels function. A daily bowel care program can help manage this problem and avoid embarrassment.
Nerves that help your bowels work smoothly can be damaged after a brain or spinal cord injury. People with multiple sclerosis or longstanding diabetes may also have problems with their bowels. Symptoms may include:
A daily bowel care program can help you avoid embarrassment. Work with your health care provider.
Keeping active helps prevent constipation. Try to walk, if you can. If you are in a wheelchair, ask your provider about exercises.
Eat plenty of food that is high in fiber. Read labels on packages and bottles to see how much fiber the food contains.
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 your rectum. Your provider can show you how to gently stimulate the area to help with bowel movements. You may also need to remove some of the stool.
You can use an enema, stool softener, or laxative until the stool is smaller and it is easier for you to have a bowel movement.
Following a regular bowel program may help prevent accidents. Learn to become aware of signs that you need to have a bowel movement, such as:
If you lose control of your bowels, ask yourself these questions:
Other tips that may help include:
Know which foods 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 leak stools or leak fluid around the stool.
Call your provider if you notice:
Iturrino JC, Lembo AJ. Constipation. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 19.
Rodriguez GM, Stiens SA. Neurogenic bowel: dysfunction and rehabilitation. In: Cifu DX, ed. Braddom's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 21.
Zainea GG. Management of fecal impaction. In: Fowler GC, ed. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 208.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 8/1/2022
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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