Bowel and Bladder Issues

Fibromyalgia, a chronic disease that causes muscle pain and fatigue, also causes many symptoms that are present in some, but not all, fibromyalgia sufferers. Examples of some of these symptoms include headache, mood disturbances and joint pain. Some patients with fibromyalgia also experience bowel or bladder control problems as part of their constellation of fibromyalgia symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition affecting the bowels that commonly coexists with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia sufferers may also have decreased bladder control.

The percentage of fibromyalgia patients that also have irritable bowel syndrome is not known. Different studies have come up with numbers from about a quarter to three quarters of fibromyalgia patients meeting the IBS diagnostic criteria. Not all people with fibromyalgia also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, but IBS is pretty common in fibromyalgia patients compared to the general population. IBS and fibromyalgia are two separate conditions, but there appears to be a link between the two. More research is required to discover why the two conditions appear to be related.

Irritable bowel syndrome causes symptoms such as abdominal cramping, abdominal pain and constipation, diarrhea or both in alternation. The cause of IBS is not known. Like fibromyalgia and a lot of autoimmune diseases, IBS is much more common in women than it is in men. Treatment for IBS usually consists of symptomatic treatments, like diet changes, lifestyle changes, eating smaller meals and use of over-the-counter medication or prescription medication. Fibromyalgia patients who are also suffering from IBS can talk to their doctor about a treatment plan that helps manage their pain and fatigue as well as their IBS-related problems.

Some fibromyalgia patients may also experience frequent, urgent urination and bladder control problems. If urinary incontinence is an issue, talk to your doctor about treatments that can help with this problem. Potential treatments for urinary incontinence include bladder muscle-strengthening exercises, behavioral changes and the use of medications. Medications called anticholinergics can help in people who have overactive bladder muscles that cause them to have to urinate with greater urgency and frequency. Other medications include a type of antidepressant called imipramine and another antidepressant called duloxetine. These medications can help reduce the urge to have to urinate to normal levels. If leakage of urine is a problem, absorbent pads worn in the underwear or absorbent underwear can help. These products are readily available at the grocery store.

Bowel and bladder control problems can be embarrassing, but don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about them. Medical and home treatments exist that can help you manage these problems along with other fibromyalgia symptoms and have more control over your life.


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