What Is the Connection Between Urinary and Fecal Incontinence?


Bladder and fecal incontinence are common but infrequently discussed health problems that often carry social, psychological, physical, and emotional effects. Incontinence is a health issue for a large number of individuals in the United States and might obstruct a patient's quality of life from minimal to significant ways. People might experience bladder or fecal incontinence, or a combination of both, which might range in the scale of intensity and dysfunction. A lot of patients find speaking about urinary or fecal incontinence embarrassing, even when it is with a medical doctor, forging a barrier to professional care for numerous people.

Even sparse episodes of incontinence could hinder a patient's readiness to partake in activities outside of the home. The thought of being outside of their home for too long or having to use the restroom at any given moment keeps numerous people from experiencing their lives to the fullest. If you or a family member have urinary or fecal incontinence (or a combination of both), it is important to know that you are not the only one. Effective treatments are in use to help you restore urinary and bowel control and improve your comfort and confidence.

Unintentional fecal or bladder leakage is a significant problem for many individuals throughout Phoenix, AZ. The highly trained gastrointestinal (GI) doctors at Arizona Digestive Health offer expert services for incontinence problems, which includes an advanced treatment referred to as sacral neuromodulation (SNM). We invite you to contact our gastrointestinal team today for additional details about bladder and fecal incontinence and to learn about your options for care.

What are causes the loss of bladder control?

Described as the absence of bladder or urinary control, urinary incontinence causes patients to unintentionally leak urine. In general, incontinence encompasses several concerns, such as urgency incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB), urinary retention, stress incontinence, and overflow incontinence. The probability of experiencing this health issue is higher for individuals older than 50, but adults of all ages can be susceptible. Additionally, the National Association for Continence has stated that over 25 million people in the United States deal with urinary incontinence every day. Common sources of bladder incontinence are:

  • Pregnancy
  • Birth trauma
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Defects in normal anatomy
  • Being overweight
  • History of surgery
  • Long-term constipation
  • Menopause
  • Nerve damage
  • Certain medications
  • Infection in the pelvic organs
  • Caffeine

What leads to bowel control problems?

Though many patients in Phoenix, AZ deem it embarrassing to seek treatment for urinary leakage, problems with bowel leakage are often even more humiliating to discuss. Bowel dysfunction, or lacking the ability to control bowel movements, can include anything from minimal bowel leakage to a complete loss of bowel control. According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, studies reveal that around 1.8 – 18% of the U.S. population is impacted by fecal incontinence. Common reasons for fecal incontinence are listed below:

  • Muscle weakness due to age
  • Nerve damage
  • Ongoing constipation or diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel diseases
  • Birth trauma
  • Prolapse of the rectum
  • Anatomical defects
  • Central nervous system (CNS) conditions
  • Previous surgeries
  • Excessive use of laxative medications

Are urinary and fecal incontinence linked?

Bladder and bowel incontinence affects two times the number of women than men. Although they might arise individually or in tandem, there is a physiological connection between these two concerns. The brain and muscles responsible for bladder and bowel control work together to manage urinary and bowel activities. In the event neural pathways connecting the brain and these muscles become impaired, various conditions of incontinence might occur. Essentially, both bladder and bowel incontinence can result if a person's brain is unable to communicate properly with the muscles that facilitate bladder and bowel tasks.

Are there effective incontinence treatment options?

Treatment for cases of urinary and bowel incontinence frequently begins with conservative therapies, like medications, pelvic floor exercise, and altering diet and fluid intake. This approach could include increasing fiber in daily nutritional intake, or reducing the consumption of caffeine and other items that carry diuretic results. When such approaches do not produce desired results, or patients are not likely candidates for conservative solutions or other treatment methods, the gastroenterologists at Arizona Digestive Health may advise sacral neuromodulation treatment. Though an array of therapeutic measures has been developed for addressing bladder incontinence, not many treatments are available for managing bowel leakage, apart from sacral neuromodulation therapy.

What should you know about sacral neuromodulation therapy?

Sacral neuromodulation therapy is a minimally invasive treatment for cases of incontinence that involves the internal placement of a mini electrical stimulator, similar to a pacemaker. The neurostimulator is inserted near the sacral nerve in the coccyx (tailbone), around the top part of the buttocks. Authorized for use in people 18 or older, sacral neuromodulation is largely advised by the American Society of Colorectal Surgeons and the American Society of Gastroenterology (after a conservative approach). SNM allows for a long-term therapeutic solution that has produced positive treatment outcomes for a large number of patients, and the great thing is that you can try it in advance to see how effective it might be for you!

How does SNM therapy treat incontinence?

People who are candidates for sacral neuromodulation therapy usually receive a 1 to 2-week trial period to initiate the process. The neurostimulator device is then positioned through a minimally invasive surgical procedure conducted by a GI specialist at Arizona Digestive Health. SNM is a therapy that regulates the function of the pelvic floor by enhancing communication among the brain and muscles that help control bladder and bowel processes. The electrical device is charged by the patient on a 2 to 4-week basis through an external device and requires only a short time to recharge. A large percentage of SNM patients find the process of recharging the neurostimulator relatively easy and efficient.

Is SNM therapy a good option for managing urinary and bowel incontinence?

Arizona Digestive Health is thrilled to provide sacral neuromodulation as an effective, safe, and long-lasting approach to treating bladder or bowel incontinence in Phoenix, AZ adults. It is clinically proven to treat bowel incontinence, urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and urinary retention. Clinical studies indicate that SNM produces a high rate of patient satisfaction and treatment success for both bladder and bowel incontinence, and also features a very high safety profile. It has proven successful in those for whom conservative therapies were not effective and has provided considerable quality of life improvements. Additionally, it is tied to a much lower frequency of incontinence events.

Receive advanced incontinence treatment in Phoenix, AZ

The application of SNM has been momentous in developing a less invasive approach to address bladder and bowel incontinence, improving the living standard of those dealing with these conditions. At Arizona Digestive Health, we empathize with the concerns and humiliation patients encounter surrounding bladder and fecal leakage. Our board-certified GI physicians proudly offer individualized solutions and confidential visits to address these types of medical concerns with the highest level of respect, care, and clinical distinction. For further details on whether you might be a candidate for sacral neuromodulation, reach out to our offices in Phoenix, AZ today to book a consultation with a gastroenterologist.