What is Accidental Bowel Leakage (ABL)?

What is ABL? 
Accidental bowel leakage or ABL is the inability to control the passage of stool and gas. It can be mild or severe. Meaning some individuals may just have trouble holding in gas, while others may struggle to hold in stool.

Due to the rather embarrassing nature of this condition, many do not seek help or treatment because they don’t want to talk about it. However, there is help. There are treatments to help control it, and tools and resources to help manage it in order to maintain dignity and normalcy.

How common is this problem?

This is a very common condition, with millions of Americans who have ABL. In fact, studies show at least 2% of the population has ABL, and those in the senior set, particularly in nursing homes and facilities are closer to 30%. This may be due to age related muscle weakening. More women then men have ABL, and

What causes ABL incontinence?

There are many different causes of ABL. Problems in any area of bowel function can lead to ABL. The following are some of the more common causes:
  • Diarrhea: Anything causing diarrhea could lead to ABL. 
  • IBS or Colitis: The length of time stool is in the bowel can contribute to leakage. If it is not in the bowel long enough the individual may not have adequate warning to make it to a bathroom. 
  • Rectal damage: Problems with the rectum can lead to stool leakage. 
  • Neurological problems: Neurological problems such as stroke can lead to ABL because the individual may have abnormal rectum sensation as a result. 
  • Injury to Sphincter or Anus: The sphincter and anus muscles may be damaged, leading to ABL. This can happen in childbirth, with aging, or during a rectal surgery. 
  • Nerve Damage: Nerve damage can lead to ABL. The nerves may be injured through stretching during pregnancy or childbirth or from excessive straining to move one’s bowels. 
What can you do?

See a doctor. The doctor will ask you about symptoms, habits, and existing medical problems and examine you. They will look for damage to the sphincter muscles, rectum, and lower colon. They may use an ultrasound, x-ray or other techniques to determine the cause or find damage.

If the doctor can determine the cause they will provide a treatment plan. Usually treatment involves trying to strengthen and repair damaged muscles, through pelvic muscles, etc.

The underlying problem will need to be corrected, which may involve medication, change to diet, surgery to repair damage, muscles training and exercises, with biofeedback, or the replacement of malfunctioning muscles, or possibly even a colostomy if the symptoms are bad enough.

Of course, while getting treatment, or if treatment can’t completely correct the problem, the individual would then need to take steps to manage the symptoms.

How do I manage ABL?

Management typically starts with trying to maintain regular bowel movements through training and a high-fiber diet. Options such as enemas to empty the rectum and reduce the chance of leakage are also an option.

However one of the best options is to simply find an absorbent product that protects you and provides you with options to be able to leave the house, and lead a normal life without fear of leakage. One such option is the Butterfly Pad.

It offers a unique design, that comfortably fits between the buttocks, and is held is place with a gentle adhesive. It has great absorbency, odor protection, and is discreet and low profile, not to mention comfortable. It can help give confidence for those with light ABL to continue living without fear of leaks.

Learn more about Butterfly Body Liners.

And visit ABLinfo.org to learn more about accidental bowel leakage and the treatment options available. 

Further Reading: 

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About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visithttp://www.caregiverpartnership.com to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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