Department of Health

Bowel problems

People with poor bowel control (also called faecal incontinence) are unable to control the passing of faeces, or stools, and may also have problems passing wind without control.

It happens to men and women across all age groups, as many as 1 in 20 people have poor bowel control. It is more common as you get older, but younger people can also have poor bowel control. Poor bowel control be caused by many conditions or injuries such as:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipations
  • Nerve Injury or disease
  • Damaged sphinter muscles around the back passage (after childbirth of surgery)


There are a number of illnesses that may affect the bowel, some of which can manifest themselves in similar ways to incontinence, so it is important to seek help from your doctor or a continence advisor to identify the cause of your bowel problem.

What can I do?

Many people feel embarrassed, but if you have poor bowel control, or a change from your usual bowel pattern it is important to seek help. Why live with an unpleasant condition?  Talk to your doctor or other health professional. For further information see: