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Home » Men's Healthcare » Don’t keep bowel dysfunction symptoms to yourself — speak to your GP

Audrey McDonnell

Pelvic Floor Clinical Nurse Specialist, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

Many management options are available for patients with bowel dysfunction, but many suffer in silence before consulting a GP. This delay often leads to unhealthy coping habits.

As a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the pelvic floor service at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital Dublin, I help people manage bowel dysfunction symptoms like constipation and faecal incontinence.

Bowel dysfunction causes and symptoms

Though 1 in 10 people reportedly suffer from faecal incontinence, symptoms are often under-reported, suggesting the actual figure is likely higher. Faecal incontinence can occur for various reasons, including neurological conditions and anal sphincter muscle defects caused by childbirth.

Bowel dysfunction is not discriminatory and affects both males and females of all ages. The symptoms can cause social isolation, anxiety, hopelessness and reduced self-esteem and can severely impact one’s quality of life.

Often, the hardest step is making the first
step, which is talking with their GP.

Why bowel dysfunction is debilitating

Faecal incontinence can take hold of a person’s life. A patient can be dependent on being near a toilet at all times out of fear of having an episode of incontinence. Some patients have reported restricting their activities to places where they know the toilet locations.

Patients have felt compelled to leave their jobs as a consequence of their symptoms. Experiencing faecal incontinence is extremely embarrassing, and patients don’t talk about their symptoms with family, friends or their GP.

Awareness and personalised care options

Awareness of the symptoms is paramount. Patients need to know that they are not the only ones suffering from such symptoms and that there is help out there. Often, the hardest step is making the first step, which is talking with their GP.

Along with lifestyle changes and dietary changes, other interventions can help. These are pelvic floor physiotherapy, trans-anal irrigation, anal inserts as well as sacral nerve modulation, to name but a few.

Bowel function is very individualised and, consequently, treatment for bowel dysfunction is also very individualised. At our pelvic floor service, we take a holistic care assessment and tailor a treatment plan. Once symptoms are managed, a patient can gain back control of their life.

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