Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence, or faecal incontinence, is when you have problems controlling your bowels.

It can be very upsetting and embarrassing, but it's important to get medical advice if you have it because treatment can help.

Signs and symptoms

Bowel incontinence can affect people in different ways.

You may have a problem if:

You may also have other symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhoea, farting or bloating.

When to get medical advice

See a GP if you have difficulty controlling your bowels. Do not be embarrassed about talking to someone about it.

Remember that:

If you'd prefer not to see a GP, you may be able to make an appointment at an NHS continence service instead. Call your local hospital for details of your nearest service.

Treatments for bowel incontinence

Treatment can help improve bowel incontinence and reduce the impact it has on your life. The best treatment for you depends on what's causing the problem.

Treatments for bowel incontinence include:

Surgery may be considered if other treatments do not help.

Read more about treatments for bowel incontinence


There are lots of possible causes of bowel incontinence. Often it's caused by a combination of problems.

Causes of bowel incontinence include:

Do not try to self-diagnose the cause of your problems. Get medical help so the underlying cause can be identified and treated.

More information

For more advice, information and support, see:

Page last reviewed: 4 March 2021
Next review due: 4 March 2024