Bowel problems in MS

Sign for the toilets

Some people with MS will never experience bowel problems, but around half of people experience constipation, and perhaps 30 to 50 per cent of people experience bowel incontinence at some stage.

Bowel problems can be embarrassing and distressing, but discussing the issue and getting the right support and advice can help you manage problems more effectively.

Some variation in bowel movements is normal - every second day may be your routine, or every few days, or having up to three bowel movements in a day.


People can mean different things when they talk about constipation. It can mean any of the following:

  • infrequent bowel actions
  • hard pellet stool
  • straining
  • bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • sense of incomplete emptying
  • excessive wind

While most people will not have all of these, a combination is possible.

Constipation is more common in MS than bowel incontinence. The two can be linked, but people who have constipation will not necessarily go on to develop a problem with incontinence, or vice versa.

Find out about strategies and treatments to help manage constipation.

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Bowel incontinence

An involuntary leakage from the bowel may be something that happens once only very occasionally, or more frequently. Whatever the frequency, it can lead to uncertainty and worry.

Bowel incontinence in MS is often linked to constipation – stools become impacted in the bowel and there is leakage around them. But there are other possible causes.

Like anyone else, people with MS may get diarrhoea through infections, having an upset stomach from eating bad food, from antibiotics or medications.

Find out about managing bowel incontinence.

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