Fecal incontinence is an embarrassing condition in which a person is unable to fully control his or her bowels. For some, it is an occasional bowel leakage, such as when passing gas. For others, however, fecal incontinence can be a total loss of bowel control. Though it usually is not caused by a serious medical issue, bowel incontinence is disruptive to overall quality of life, preventing many people from enjoying activities or social events for fear of embarrassment. We encourage anyone experiencing fecal incontinence to seek medical attention for the condition. With treatment, many patients are able to return to normal bowel control and prevent painful skin irritation that is often associated with the condition.
Did you know…
some cases of fecal incontinence can be resolved with supervised muscle strengthening exercises with biofeedback monitored by a trained physical therapist. This approach improves incontinence in 50% of patients.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the causes of fecal incontinence?
The cause of fecal incontinence can be one of many different reasons, including medical conditions such as diabetic nerve damage, injuries sustained during vaginal delivery, advanced age, or previous anorectal surgery. Sometimes, fecal incontinence is brought on by problems with bowel movements, such as chronic diarrhea, constipation, or chronic straining.
Who is at risk of developing poor bowel control?
Nearly everyone experiences fecal incontinence at some point, though it usually occurs during short-term bouts of diarrhea. Middle-age to senior females – especially those who have given birth – are at a slightly higher risk of fecal incontinence than the rest of the population. In fact, estimates suggest that 10 percent of all women over age 40 have some degree of fecal incontinence.
What kinds of fecal incontinence treatments are offered ?
Treatment for fecal incontinence varies depending on the cause of the condition. For some, medication or lifestyle changes are enough to resolve the problem. For others, colorectal surgery may be necessary to repair a damaged sphincter muscle, treat a rectal prolapsed or address some other related condition. Your colorectal surgeon may examine the anal area and use a probe to gently test the muscles around the anus. Additional tests, such as a anal manometry, MRI, or balloon expulsion test, may be necessary to determine the cause of incontinence.