Bowel incontinence: is this new dementia?

Bowel incontinence: is this new dementia?

For some of us, eating normally and using the toilet after every meal isn't just a luxury. It's a vital part of our daily lives. For others, it's simply the most distressing, embarrassing and inconvenient symptoms of a devastating condition that affects more than 200,000 people in the UK. But the fact is that some people with Parkinson's disease find that the urge to use the toilet (and the resulting absence of the space where the bowel muscles have settled) is so overwhelming that it prevents them from functioning normally. Of course, for most of us, the opposite is the case: we can eat normally and be as mobile as possible, but still, need to use the toilet regularly – when the need arises. But that simple fact may not be as straightforward as we first thought.

Parkinson's has often been associated with decreased mobility. Still, new research from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles suggests that because Parkinson's can affect the digestive system, sufferers may experience symptoms even when they're fully mobile – as they're unable to empty their bowels for fear of getting themselves into a tricky situation. From the Keck School of Medicine at USC, Professor Joyce Van Gelder says that with this in mind, "we thought it was important to explore whether there was a common relationship between gastrointestinal symptoms in Parkinson's disease patients and mobility." Indeed, Van Gelder and her colleagues tested a sample of 200 Parkinson's patients – divided into two groups: those with the highest degree of mobility and those with the lowest degree of mobility – and found that mobility was the only factor that significantly linked to incontinence.

Inconsolable pain Those who were struggling to use the toilet – due to involuntary and chronic constipation – were also suffering from more severe depression, anxiety and general confusion than those who found themselves passing no stool for long periods.
Van Gelder says she can only speculate why this is the case, but one factor she's sure of is that Parkinson's patients are known to have a less than average sense of smell, which could well be why constipation is such a trigger for some. "The idea that the bowels, which are so linked with the sense of smell and identity, are in this sensory neglect pattern hit home for me," says van Gelder. "I have a partner with Parkinson's, who used to have bowel incontinence but is now entirely incontinent. It's challenging to see your partner go through this – I think it's very distressing for them. They find themselves in these embarrassing situations where they're trapped, unable to go to the toilet. "It's as if the mind and the body don't talk to each other appropriately.

It's the whole vicious cycle, and with Parkinson's disease, many people also have digestive problems. So we have worked to try and figure out why it is that the GI tract becomes this point of impairment and lack of control. I hope that some of our work will help in the development of treatments, significantly to help people who need to use the toilet but are unable to."

At Novamed Pads, we can help you with your digestive problems and bowel problems with our adult, all in one nappy or another product to suit your needs.

Please do not hesitate to get in contact with us with any questions you may have.