The Link Between Vascular Dementia and Bowel Incontinence

Incontinence is a huge issue for many people with debilitating brain conditions. The relationship between Vascular Dementia and Bowel Incontinence is a common problem that is barely spoken of.

This week is brain awareness week. This is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Lectures, panel discussions and lessons are held each year to educate people on the function of the brain. The relationship between the brain and the bowel is discussed frequently. It can be incredibly hard to take care of someone with Vascular Dementia and Bowel Incontinence. Understanding the link can be a key step to accepting and learning about their condition.

What is the Relationship Between the Brain and Bowel Function?

It is the muscles within the rectum and anus that help to control your bowels. The sphincter muscles are responsible for the release of stool. The relationship between the brain and bowel is more important than you may think. Just like how our bladder becomes full and sends signals to the brain to let it know, our digestive system becomes full and sends signals about its fullness to the brain. The brain then sends signals via the nerves to keep the external sphincter closed. These signals begin in the brain and go to the spinal cord and continue to the nerves located in the sacral area of the back. They then go down to the rectum and external sphincter muscles. The brain's signals are important to ensure the muscles only release stool when it is appropriate.

bowel incontinence sphincter muscle

Are you caring for someone with Vascular Dementia and Incontinence? Post on our Forum and Receive Expert Advice.

incontinence forum

What is Vascular Dementia?

Vascular Dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to brain. This often results from a serious of tiny strokes, also known as “infarcts”. These strokes damage and destroy some brain cells. The condition can also be caused by a single stroke, in which the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off. In addition to this, it can also occur to the narrowing of small blood vessels in the brain. This is also called “Subcortical Vascular Dementia”.

Vascular Dementia affects an estimated 150,000 people in the UK. The condition does gradually get worse over time, although on some occasions it can be slowed down. Vascular Dementia can impair an individual's memory, language and motor skills.

woman worried incontinence

Exploring the Link Between Vascular Dementia and Incontinence

Vascular Dementia thinking changes can range from mild to severe. It is generally only the most severe cases of Vascular Dementia that can cause bowel incontinence. The damage and death of brain cells that control the bowel interrupts the communication between the brain and bowel. Some people with Vascular Dementia therefore develop bowel incontinence.

Faecal incontinence also occurs due to other cognitive complications. These include the following:

  • Feeling disorientated and confused
  • Difficulty with motor skills and balance
  • Slowness of thought
  • Memory and language problems. This can make communication difficult. If someone is relying on another person for care, language problems can mean they do not communicate when the bowel is full

Taking Care of Someone with Vascular Dementia and Bowel Incontinence

Find the Right Product for Them

Maintaining their dignity means providing them with a product that meets their needs. Read our Guide to Choosing Bowel Incontinence Products for guidance on choosing a product.

Recommended Bowel Incontinence Products

tena slip maxi
id expert belt maxi

Buy TENA Slip Maxi

  • Secure fixation tabs
  • Fully breathable
  • ConfioAir

From £12.29

Buy Attends F6

  • Plastic Polyethylene back sheet
  • Nonwoven top sheet
  • Body Shaped Pads


Buy iD Expert Belt Maxi

  • Velcro Fastening
  • Non-woven Material
  • Super Absorbent Polymers

From £7.98

lille suprem fit maxi

Buy Lille SupremFit

  • High density core
  • Snug Fit
  • Waterproof back sheet

From £9.25

Buy TENA Flex Maxi

  • Belt fixation
  • “Superfit” waistband
  • ComfiStretch Elastics

From £13.65

Buy Attends Flex

  • Flexible fixation system
  • Breathable back sheet
  • Triple Effect System

From £13.05

Patience is Key

Being gentle and patient is key when helping someone with bowel incontinence. This is true for both communicating with them and changing products. If you are unsure about changing products, read our guide to Putting on Incontinence Pads and Pants for an Individual.



Talk with a Doctor

Talk to a Doctor about options that apply to the person you’re caring for. You should also ask about any appropriate medication. Some medications can be helpful for calming the bladder and bowel. Some of these do have side effects that can worsen Dementia, so it is important to get expert advice.


Ensure they Have a Healthy Lifestyle

Experts recommend the following tips:

  • Avoid caffeine
  • Do gentle exercise regularly
  • Eat plenty of fiber
  • Limit liquids at night-time
  • Avoid bladder irritant foods such as spicy foods


Interested in the Learning about the Other Causes of Senior Incontinence?

Originally posted 2019-03-12 13:38:53.


  1. Alan Whitmarsh Reply

    My wife was diagnosed with Dementia 6 years ago, and is now 74. She has not had Bowel Incontinence
    during the day but on about 5 occasions she has got up in the night and had a bowel movement on furniture.
    I leave the toilet light on and have a bright Red toilet seat to help, is this incontinence or due to disorientation?

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