2 posts tagged “bowel problems”

MS and bowel incontinence

Posted September 5th, 2017 by

More than 14,000 members living with MS report bowel problems (difficulty in passing feces including constipation, bowel incontinence [loss of bowel control], and diarrhea). So, what’s the deal with bowel incontinence and MS? What can you do to manage symptoms?

We checked in with Meaghan Zisk, RN MPH, a nurse and Health Data and Patient Safety Clinical Specialist here at PatientsLikeMe, to learn a little bit more.

What’s incontinence?

  • Bowel incontinence is the loss of bowel control leading to accidentally passing solid or liquid stool from the rectum. You may also hear of the term urinary incontinence, which is the loss of bladder control and an involuntary leaking of urine.
  • Nearly 18 million U.S. adults, or about 1 in 12, experience bowel incontinence at some point.
  • Although it can affect any age, it primarily affects older adults.
  • There are some things that can increase the risk of bowel incontinence:
    • Frequent diarrhea
    • Urgency, which means you feel like you don’t have time to get to a toilet to have a bowel movement
    • A disease or injury that damages the nervous system
    • Poor overall health
    • A difficult childbirth with injuries to the muscles or ligaments that help support the rectum

Bowel incontinence and MS:

  • While a little less common than other bowel problems like constipation, many patients living with MS experience bowel incontinence.
    • One study of 221 patients with MS found that 54% had constipation while 29% experienced bowel incontinence.
    • Other studies suggest that as many as 5 out of 10 people with MS experience a bowel accident at some time.
  • Okay, so what’s the connection?
    • Constipation may lead to bowel incontinence because stool backs up in the rectum, which is called an impaction, and loose diarrhea passes around it.
    • People who have mobility problems may have difficulty reaching a toilet quickly when they need to have a bowel movement.
    • People with MS may have trouble feeling when they need to go due to decreased nerve sensation in the rectum.
    • Nerve issues associated with MS may also prevent pelvic floor muscles, which help with having a bowel movement, from relaxing.

What can you do?

  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least 8 glasses of liquid) and get the right amount fiber (usually about 20-35 grams a day) things to maintain regular bowel movements.
  • Plan a bowel routine. It can help with regularity and feeling relaxed and comfortable. A bowel routine involves planning to have a bowel movement at a certain time, usually shortly after a meal or hot beverage. Eventually, the body becomes used to a regular bowel control pattern.
  • Certain medications or treatments could be useful depending on the problem. For example, an antidiarrheal medication might be needed to help slow down the bowels. Fiber supplements can help with providing bulk to the stool, and enemas or suppositories may help if constipation is also a factor.
  • Pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles or biofeedback retraining to increase awareness of sensations in the rectum may help manage bowel incontinence.
  • More tips:
    • Carry a cleanup bag when you go out
    • Locate public restrooms before you need it
    • Wear absorbent pads in your underwear
    • Use fecal deodorants

Talk to your doctor:

  • Bowel incontinence may be a difficult symptom to discuss with your doctor but there are many options for managing incontinence and it is important to have a full assessment to figure out what would work best for you.





Have you experienced bowel incontinence? Does it affect your social life? Share how you cope with the physical and emotional symptoms in the forum.

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What Do You Know About InterStim Therapy Side Effects?

Posted May 21st, 2011 by

Looking for a place to research or share your experiences with InterStim Therapy side effects?  You’ve come to the right place.  At PatientsLikeMe, more than 125,000 patients are sharing their experiences with all types of treatments, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, supplements and procedures.

Manufactured by Medtronic, the InterStim Therapy System is surgically implanted device designed to help patients reduce the number of urinary and bowel accidents.  It is FDA-approved for patients with urinary or fecal incontinence who have failed to respond to, or could not tolerate, more conservative treatments.  How exactly does it work?  An implanted neurostimulator delivers an electrical pulse to the sacral nerve, which controls the bladder and anal sphincter.  This pulse is sent via a handheld programmer.

During the clinical trial that found InterStim Therapy could reduce bowel accidents by half (and in some patients, restore full continence of bowel movements), reported InterStim Therapy side effects included infection, pain at the site, “pins and needles” and the neurostimulator breaking through the skin.  But what about in the real world?  That’s where PatientsLikeMe comes into play.

According to the six treatment evaluations of InterStim Therapy submitted by PatientsLikeMe members (10 of whom currently report using the device), reported side effects included “bladder problems,” “annoying sensation” and “bowel incontinence.” Three patients rated the side effects as “Mild,” while three others reported no side effects.

Curious to hear more?  Here’s what three patients, all of whom report multiple sclerosis (MS) as their primary condition, had to say in the freeform section of their evaluation:

  • “It has helped me! Aside from the surgery pain and the seizure I endured, I would have it implanted again.”
  • “Taking the InterStim was an act of desperation. I was about twenty when my bladder started to fail. The leaking and frequency still continue to be a problem.”
  • “The impact this device has had on my daily life is incredible. I truly feel this is the best thing I could ever have done for myself and my MS symptoms.”


Have you been implanted with an InterStim Therapy device?  Join PatientsLikeMe and add your experiences with InterStim effectiveness, side effects and more to our growing body of knowledge.  Then, stay to exchange advice and support, research common treatments and learn from other patients like you.

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