|When to seek help?
If you have a problem with bowel leakage, it is a good idea to get an irritable bowel syndrome diet and professional help. Many doctors still do not realize how common faecal incontinence is, or that anything can be done about it, and so may try to tell you that you just have to learn to live with it. In a few cases this is true, but not without proper investigations and trying treatment first.
It is never too late to get help with bowel problems. Just because you have put up with it for years does not mean that nothing can be done. If your problem is restricting your day-to day activities you should seek help. Some people only cope by never going out, or by not eating at all if they are going out.
Some problems should lead you to seek urgent medical attention,not as fast as an emergency, but as soon as possible in working hours:
- Blood in or on your bowel motions. This might be bright red fresh blood, or dark red (partly digested) blood.
- A sudden or unexplained change in your usual bowel habit.
- Unexplained abdominal pains
It is rare for fecal incontinence to be a sign of serious bowel disease or cancer, but it is always worth having it checked out.
Who can help
The best place to start is usually your own family doctor (General Practitioner). If this is difficult, or you do not feel comfortable talking to your doctor, you may like to broach the subject first with a practice nurse if there is one (maybe in a Well Woman or Well Man clinic) or with a district nurse.
The UK has a network of specialist nurse continence advisers who should be able to give you help and advice. Many Continence Advisers accept self-referral so that you do not have to talk to your doctor about the problem first. To contact your nearest adviser in the UK call or email the CONTINENCE FOUNDATION HELPLINE. (Telephone 020 7831 9831 Monday – Friday 9.30am-1pm. continence-foundation.org.uk
In the UK the organization for people with bowel or bladder control problems is called INCONTACT. The have a website and a consumer-to-consumer helpline, as a well as a regular newsletter, a national conference and some local meetings. www.incontact.demon.co.uk.
Continence Orgainsations Around the World
Many countries now have a national continence organisation who may have information and advice, or may be able to put you in touch with a local specialist. These organisations are networked via the Continence Worldwide Website.
If you really do not want to face anyone to start with, you can call the Continence Foundation Helpline, in confidence, and talk to a trained nurse who knows all about these problems and can give you information in confidence and put you in touch with your local specialist.
CONTINENCE FOUNDATION HELPLINE. (Telephone 020 7831 9831 Monday – Friday 9.30am-1pm)
Other sources of information about bowel problems
Digestive Disease Foundation
The charitable Foundation of the British Society of Gastroenterology, the Digestive Diseases Foundation had a wide range of information leaflets on different bowel disorders.
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD)
The IFFGD has a regular newsletter and a wide range of information on functional bowel problems such as incontinence, irritable bowel syndrome and others.