What medications can cause bowel incontinence?
Bowel incontinence is when you are unable to control your bowel movements. This condition may be a side effect of medications. Some medications that may cause loose, watery stools and incontinence include cancer medications and antibiotics.
The most common cause of bowel incontinence in people not in a hospital or nursing home is diarrhea. These are some medications that commonly cause diarrhea:
- Antacids that contain magnesium
- Antacids called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Prilosec (omeprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole)
- Sugar substitutes in sugar-free foods called sugar alcohols, like xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol
- Heart drugs, such as quinine and digitalis
- Cancer drugs
- Thyroid replacement medicines
- Gout medicine colchicine
- Diabetes medications called biguanides or the medication Precose (acarbose)
- Medications for glaucoma called prostaglandins
- The weight loss medication Xenical (orlistat)
In many cases, stopping or changing a medication can help.
Other causes of bowel incontinence include nervous system diseases like stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and dementia. Having type 2 diabetes may also increase your risk.
Frequent constipation can also be a risk factor for bowel incontinence. Constipation can cause a large, hard stool to block your rectum. Liquid stool may then move around the obstruction and leak out. Constipation may also weaken the muscles of your bowel and make your bowel too weak to control bowel movements.
With bowel or urge incontinence, you may feel the urge to move your bowels but not be able to get to the bathroom in time. You may also have bowel movements without warning.
You may be at higher risk for this condition if you are over age 65, have one or more long-term medical conditions, or you do not get enough exercise. People who smoke or have had their gallbladder removed are also at higher risk.
- American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. Fecal Incontinence. Available at: https://fascrs.org/patients/diseases-and-conditions/a-z/fecal-incontinence#. [Accessed May 31, 2021].
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Symptoms & Causes of Fecal Incontinence. July 2017. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/bowel-control-problems-fecal-incontinence/symptoms-causes. [Accessed May 31, 2021].
- Burgers K, Lindberg B, Bevis ZJ. Chronic Diarrhea in Adults: Evaluation and Differential Diagnosis. Am Fam Physician. 2020 Apr 15;101(8):472-480. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2020/0415/p472.html
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Definition & Facts of Fecal Incontinence. July 2017. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/bowel-control-problems-fecal-incontinence/definition-facts. [Accessed May 31, 2021].
Related support groups
- Fecal Incontinence (1 questions, 9 members)