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Home » Bladder and bowel » How life-changing treatment for bowel incontinence ended my 25 years of suffering

Bowel incontinence, also known as faecal incontinence, is an inability to control one’s bowel movements. However, effective solutions now exist.

According to Bladder & Bowel UK, approximately 14 million people in the UK suffer from a continence issue. Moreover, about 6.5 million have some form of bowel problem. Many studies focus on its prevalence in groups above 40. Studies also state that twice as many women are more likely to suffer from incontinence than men.  

Issue of bowel incontinence in young people and men 

However, I — a 56-year-old man — have been suffering from bowel incontinence since I was in my mid-20s. This is important to highlight as it seems to be a woman-focused issue. I’m living proof that this is not always the case.  

Throughout early life, I was misdiagnosed with ‘diarrhoea predominant IBS,’ and I lived with this diagnosis for 25 years. I would have catastrophic episodes of incontinence. I went along, but no examinations were done by the GP. It only got worse and reached the point where I had to move close to work because it was impossible to catch the tube, for example.   

Psychological impacts of bowel incontinence 

Every time I lose control of my environment, the panic attacks would begin; the adrenaline would flow; gut motility would increase. I would have no control over my bowel functions. It’s life-altering, and people suffer from it for years because no one wants to talk about it.  

When I was finally willing to talk about it, I felt liberated. It affects your social life; sexual life; mental health; every element of life. Even a two-minute trip to the shop had to be planned, and I would wear adult nappies. I always needed to find out what the toilet situation was.  

There’s a huge mental impact. It’s not just about treating the mechanical, physical element. The panic attacks could be severe — as soon as I walk into a room, I was overcome with fear. That doesn’t disappear as soon as you put in the SNS (sacral nerve stimulator).  

There’s a huge mental impact. It’s not just about
treating the mechanical, physical element.

Journey of seeking help for incontinence: ups and downs 

I have had two stimulator devices (also known as sacral nerve stimulation) fitted. Before that, I had seen several GPs and three good gastroenterologists, but they didn’t seem aware of the life-changing treatment available.  

It was only when I went to St Marks (the National Bowel Hospital in London) that I got the help I needed. They did all the necessary tests. However, even with the wonderful care I had, there was no attention to looking after the psychological effects. People need this help.  

In terms of having the SNS device, it was life-changing. I had the Interstim II fitted and had that for seven years. Unfortunately, it ran out of battery just as the pandemic hit. I was back to square one for nine months and had to go back to adult nappies. It was very emotionally distressing.  

More advanced solution to bowel incontinence  

When I finally had the operation, I opted for the latest rechargeable microdevice (InterStim Micro). It allowed me to get full-body MRI scans, and the battery lasts up to 15 years. Another advantage of my SNS device is that it can completely stop bowel urges. The previous one gave me more time. This second one gave me control.  

This treatment gave me back my life. Bowel incontinence is both about the physical and psychological consequences. Finding the proper treatment for me is the only thing that stopped my 25 years of suffering.  

Currently, there is a new recharge-free battery available. I’m pleased to know there are options I can choose from when it comes time for a battery replacement. More patients and healthcare providers should be more aware of the multifaceted success of finding the right treatment.  

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