What is Fecal Incontinence?
Fecal incontinence is the impaired ability to control stool. Stool, liquid or solid, leaks out of the rectum at unwanted times with or without your knowledge. Fecal incontinence happens more often in women than in men and is a common occurrence in the elderly.
Fecal incontinence can manifest in multiple ways, sometimes stool leaks out when passing gas and sometimes stool leaks out from physical activity or daily life exertions. It also makes one "feel like they have to go" but are not able to make it to the bathroom in time. Stool is seen in the uinderwear after a normal bowel movement or complete loss of bowel control. If you are experiencing any of this speak to a colorectal surgeon.
Causes of Incontinence
- Watery stools
- Muscle damage during prolongedor multiple childbirth
- Old age
- Nerve damage from diabetes or spine abnormalities
- Loss of rectal compliance because of irritable bowel syndrome or radiation proctits
- Other medical conditions, such as rectal prolapse (the rectum falls down into the anus)
Factors that cause Fecal Incontinence
- Muscles in the anus (sphincters)
- Rectal compliance (the ability to stretch and hold stool)
- Rectal sensation (to provide warning about the stretching of the rectum)
- Stool consistency
Treating Fecal Incontinence
Once the cause has been determined, fecal incontinence can be treated taking one or more approaches:
- Dietary changes (Avoiding specific foods such as caffeine, prunes, beans, spicy food, etc. that may cause loose stool)
- Bowel Training (performing enemas to empty bowels at fixed times and do pelvic floor exercises)
- Medications (Anti-diarrheal drugs and fiber supplements may thicken stool)