The Connection Between Bladder and Bowel Incontinence


Incontinence is a prevalent yet seldom mentioned medical problem. It is commonly accompanied by emotional, physical, psychological, and social concerns. The condition of incontinence impacts a multitude of U.S. patients and could restrict a person’s way of life from minimal to significant ways. People might have urinary or bowel incontinence, or even a combination of both, which can range in the scale of intensity and dysfunction. Numerous individuals find discussing bladder or fecal incontinence humiliating, even when it is with a medical doctor, bringing about a barrier to treatment for many patients.

Even sporadic episodes of incontinence could inhibit a patient's readiness to engage in activities or events outside of the home. The idea of being outside of the home for a long time or needing to visit the restroom suddenly prevents a lot of patients from enjoying a high quality of living. In the event you or a loved one notice any amount of bladder or fecal incontinence (or a combination of both), know that you are not alone, and care is available. There are treatments in use that can help you recover your urinary and bowel control and elevate your comfort and confidence.

Unexpected fecal or urinary leakage is a serious issue for a large number of adults in our community. The seasoned gastrointestinal (GI) specialists at GastroArkansas offer expert care for incontinence conditions, including a minimally invasive service known as sacral neuromodulation (SNM). We welcome you to contact our Little Rock, AR gastroenterology team right away to learn more about bladder and bowel incontinence and to review your options for treatment.

What are the causes of bladder incontinence?

Identified as the absence of urinary or bladder control, bladder incontinence causes individuals to unexpectedly leak urine. It encompasses several issues, such as urinary retention, stress incontinence, urgency incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB), or overflow incontinence. The likelihood of developing this health issue is higher for those over age 50, though adults in all age groups may be affected. Additionally, the National Association for Continence has indicated that more than 25 million individuals across the U.S. experience urinary incontinence each day. Common sources of bladder incontinence include the following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth trauma
  • Damage to the pelvic muscles
  • Anatomical defects
  • Obesity
  • Previous surgery
  • Long-term constipation
  • Menopause
  • Nerve damage
  • Certain medications
  • Infection in the pelvic organs
  • Caffeine

What leads to bowel incontinence?

While many adults in Little Rock, AR find it uncomfortable to seek care for urinary leakage, concern over fecal incontinence can be even harder to disclose. Bowel dysfunction, or the inability to control bowel movements, can encompass conditions ranging from a small amount of bowel leakage to a total inability to control the bowels. Per the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, research reveals that approximately 1.8 – 18% of individuals in the United States are impacted by fecal incontinence. Some of the more common factors that lead to bowel incontinence include:

  • Excessive laxative use
  • Irritable bowel diseases
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Central nervous system (CNS) conditions
  • Damage to the nerves
  • Surgery
  • Persistent constipation or diarrhea
  • Birth trauma
  • Age-related muscle weakness
  • Defects in normal anatomy

Are bladder and bowel incontinence connected?

Bowel and urinary incontinence are experienced by twice as many women as men. Even though they can persist independently or at the same time, there is a physiological connection between these problems. The brain and muscles that control the bowels and bladder manage urinary and fecal capabilities. In the event neural pathways connecting the brain and these muscles become blocked, varying levels of incontinence can develop. Overall, both bladder and bowel incontinence might be caused if a patient's brain is unable to transmit the proper messages to the muscles that are responsible for bladder and bowel activities.

In what way is incontinence treated?

Treatment for improving cases of urinary and fecal incontinence generally begins with a conservative approach, such as medications, pelvic floor exercise, and altering diet and fluid intake. This approach might involve adding fiber to daily nutritional intake, or cutting back on caffeine or other products that produce diuretic results. In the event such approaches do not produce desired results, or people are not good candidates for conservative solutions or more invasive treatment methods, the digestive health specialists at GastroArkansas may recommend treatment with sacral neuromodulation. Even though several therapeutic treatments have been developed for managing urinary leakage, far fewer options exist for addressing cases of bowel incontinence, outside of sacral neuromodulation therapy.

What should you know about sacral neuromodulation?

Sacral neuromodulation treatment is a minimally invasive therapy that treats incontinence through the placement of a small rechargeable stimulator, similar to a pacemaker. The neurostimulator is implanted beside the sacral nerve in the tailbone (coccyx), around the top region of the gluteus muscles, or buttocks. Approved for use in patients 18 or older, SNM therapy is highly advised by the American Society of Gastroenterology and the American Society of Colorectal Surgeons (second to conservative therapies). This approach offers a long-range therapeutic solution that has delivered successful treatment results for a high percentage of patients. As an added benefit, patients are able to try it out beforehand to see whether it works for them.

How does sacral neuromodulation therapy treat incontinence?

Patients who are candidates for sacral neuromodulation treatment usually undergo a 7 to 14-day trial period to begin the therapeutic process. The sacral neuromodulation device is then put into place by way of a minor, minimally invasive surgical procedure carried out by a GI specialist at GastroArkansas. Sacral neuromodulation is a restorative treatment that helps to normalize pelvic muscle function by facilitating communication among the brain and the muscles that control urinary and fecal processes. The implanted device is recharged by the patient on a 2 to 4-week basis via an external device and requires a relatively short recharging period. The majority of SNM patients deem the recharging process to be relatively efficient and simple.

Is sacral neuromodulation an optimal way to treat incontinence?

GastroArkansas is proud to offer sacral neuromodulation as an effective, safe, and longer-term approach to addressing urinary or fecal incontinence in Little Rock, AR individuals. It is clinically proven to improve symptoms of bowel incontinence, urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and urinary retention. Clinical studies reveal that sacral neuromodulation therapy has a high success rate and high rate of patient satisfaction for both bladder and bowel incontinence conditions, and also features a very high safety profile. It has shown success in people for whom a conservative approach to therapy was not effective and can enable significant improvements in their quality of living. Additionally, it is associated with lower occurrences of incontinence episodes.

Learn more about innovative incontinence treatment in Little Rock, AR

The utilization of sacral neuromodulation therapy has been paramount in determining a less invasive option to treat bladder and bowel leakage, thus enhancing the confidence and comfort of adults suffering from these conditions. At GastroArkansas, we know the embarrassment and concerns people endure with urinary and fecal incontinence. Our skilled GI doctors in Little Rock, AR offer personalized approaches and confidential consultations to manage incontinence with the highest level of respect, care, and clinical excellence. To find out if you could be an ideal candidate for sacral neuromodulation therapy, contact our office to book a visit with a gastrointestinal specialist.