Is There a Connection Between Bladder and Bowel Incontinence?


Incontinence is a common but seldom spoken about health condition that is frequently accompanied by physical, psychological, emotional, and social issues. It affects a multitude of people across the United States and may interfere with a person’s quality of living from minor to significant ways. Individuals might have urinary or fecal incontinence, and even both, which may vary in the magnitude of dysfunction and intensity. Many people consider talking about urinary or bowel incontinence humiliating, even when it is with a physician, keeping countless individuals from getting the care they need.

Many times, even sporadic occurrences of incontinence may restrict a person’s readiness to partake in activities or events outside of the home. The idea of being away from home for too long or having to rush to the bathroom urgently prevents a lot of people from experiencing a high quality of living. Should you or a loved one develop urinary or bowel incontinence (or both), know that you are not alone, and help is available. There are modern treatments in use to help you regain urinary and bowel control and improve your confidence, comfort, and quality of life.

Uncontrolled bowel or urinary leakage is a major concern for many adults in New Orleans, LA. The board-certified gastrointestinal (GI) physicians at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates deliver personalized care for incontinence concerns, which includes an advanced service referred to as sacral neuromodulation (SNM). We welcome you to contact our digestive health team right away to discover more about bladder and fecal incontinence and to identify your options for treatment.

What causes bladder leakage?

Described as the loss of bladder or urinary control, urinary incontinence causes an individual to accidentally leak urine. Incontinence involves a broad range of problems, like overflow incontinence, overactive bladder (OAB) or urgency incontinence, urinary retention, and stress incontinence. The risk of developing this health concern is higher for individuals older than 50; however, adults in all age groups may be impacted. In fact, the National Association for Continence has stated that over 25 million individuals across the U.S. have bladder incontinence every day. Common reasons for bladder incontinence include the following:

  • Obesity
  • Surgery
  • Persistent constipation
  • Damage to the nerves
  • Certain medications
  • Infection in the pelvic organs
  • Caffeine consumption
  • Menopause
  • Being pregnant
  • Childbirth trauma
  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles
  • Defects in normal anatomy

What causes bowel control problems?

While a lot of patients in New Orleans, LA find it embarrassing to seek treatment for urinary incontinence, problems with fecal incontinence are often even more difficult to admit. The inability to control bowel movements, or bowel dysfunction, can include anything from sporadic bowel leakage to a complete loss of bowel control. Per the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, studies reveal that 1.8 – 18% of individuals in the United States are impacted by fecal incontinence. Some of the reasons for bowel incontinence are as follows:

  • Central nervous system (CNS) conditions
  • Damage to the nerves
  • Excessive use of laxative medications
  • Birth trauma
  • Ongoing diarrhea or constipation
  • Irritable bowel diseases
  • Prolapse of the rectum
  • Age-related muscle weakness
  • Previous surgeries
  • Defects in normal anatomy

Are urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence connected?

Bowel and urinary incontinence impacts double the number of women than men. Even though they might occur on an individual basis or concurrently, there is a physiological connection between these separate problems. The brain and muscles responsible for bladder and bowel control work in tandem to ensure proper bladder and bowel function. When neural pathways involving the brain and these muscles become blocked, different degrees of incontinence may occur. In essence, both urinary and bowel incontinence could develop should a patient's brain does not communicate properly with the muscles that manage bowel and bladder activities.

Are there effective treatment options for incontinence?

Treatment for addressing cases of bowel and bladder incontinence typically begins with conservative therapies, like pelvic floor exercises, medications, or modifying diet and fluid intake. These therapeutic approaches may include adding fiber to the diet, or lowering the amount of caffeine consumed and additional items that have diuretic effects. If these therapies do not prove effective or patients are not good candidates for conservative or other procedures, the GI doctors at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates could recommend sacral neuromodulation therapy. Although an array of therapeutic solutions is available for treating bladder incontinence, there are not as many options for treating bowel incontinence, aside from sacral neuromodulation.

What is sacral neuromodulation?

Sacral neuromodulation is a minimally invasive method of addressing incontinence that works through the strategic placement of a small electrical device, much like a pacemaker. The neurostimulator is inserted along the sacral nerve in the tailbone (coccyx), around the top part of the gluteus muscles, or buttocks. Authorized for use in people age 18 or older, SNM therapy is largely recommended by the American Society of Colorectal Surgeons and the American Society of Gastroenterology (second to conservative treatment options). SNM is a long-lasting option that has offered positive treatment outcomes for a high percentage of people. Furthermore, patients are able to try it out in advance to determine how effective it might be for their needs.

How does SNM therapy treat incontinence?

Patients who are candidates for SNM therapy typically receive a 7 to 14-day trial phase to initiate the process. The sacral neurostimulator is then placed through a minor, minimally invasive surgery performed by a GI specialist at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates. Sacral neuromodulation is a restorative therapy that helps to normalize pelvic floor function by enhancing electrical signals between the brain and the muscles responsible for urinary and fecal activities. The neurostimulator is recharged by the patient every 2 – 4 weeks by way of an external device and needs a relatively short recharging timeframe. A large number of people who choose sacral neuromodulation report the recharging process to be simple and efficient overall.

Is sacral neuromodulation an effective option for managing incontinence?

Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates is proud to offer sacral neuromodulation therapy as an effective, safe, and longer-term option for managing bladder or fecal incontinence in New Orleans, LA individuals. It is clinically proven to treat urinary incontinence, OAB, urinary retention, and bowel incontinence. Clinical studies indicate that SNM produces a high success rate and high rate of patient satisfaction for both urinary and fecal incontinence concerns, and also has a very high safety profile. SNM has shown success in individuals for whom conservative therapies were not effective and can provide notable quality of life enhancements. The treatment is also linked to considerably lower occurrences of incontinence events.

Get professional incontinence treatment in New Orleans, LA

The application of sacral neuromodulation has been paramount in offering a minimally invasive approach to managing urinary and fecal leakage, thus improving the livelihood of people affected by these issues. At Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates, we realize the concerns and humiliation people face when it comes to bladder and bowel leakage. Our board-certified GI specialists are pleased to offer expert solutions and private consultations to manage these medical conditions with the greatest amount of respect, care, and treatment excellence. To learn if you are a candidate for SNM therapy, contact one of our offices in New Orleans, LA to reserve an appointment with a GI doctor.