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Bowel problems can range from needing to rush to the toilet, to feeling pain when you pass a bowel motion, to being unable to pass any faeces.
Around 6.5 million people in the UK are affected by some form of bowel problem.
Many people with bowel incontinence are unwilling to discuss their condition, so it is more common than most people realise.
Common bowel problems include bowel urge incontinence – a sudden, urgent need to go to the toilet, which often results in you being unable to reach a toilet in time – and passive soiling – when you experience no warning before passing faeces. Some people may leak pieces of stool when passing wind, while some health conditions can lead to complete loss of bowel control.
If your bowel movements follow any of the patterns described above on a regular basis or you experience any discomfort or pain, you should go to your GP as soon as possible. You should not try to manage the condition yourself with the use of continence products. It is important to identify the cause of your problem and discuss and agree on a treatment plan. This may include continence products, at least initially until your symptoms are better controlled.
There is more information on the possible causes of bowel problems on our Possible causes page.
For a more detailed overview of how your bowel works, please visit our How the bowel works page.