Fecal incontinence is a common condition involving a loss of bowel control, resulting in a leaking of stool from the rectum, which often occurs during the passage of gas. It typically affects older adults and is more common in older females because of past pregnancies. Although it may be embarrassing to discuss, fecal incontinence is a common condition affecting millions of people, and should receive proper medical attention so that patients can engage in their everyday activities without the worry of incontinence.
Causes of Fecal Incontinence
Fecal incontinence may develop as a result of constipation, diarrhea, or from damage to the muscles or nerves that control bowel movement release. This condition occurs most often in older adults, and is also more common in females because of the relation to past pregnancies and childbirth, although both men and women of any age can be affected.
Treatment of Fecal Incontinence
Treatment for fecal incontinence will be determined by the cause and severity of the condition, but the goal of treatment is to restore control over bowel movements. Some treatment methods may include the following:
- High fiber diet
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods
- Bowel training exercises to restore muscle strength
- Medication to relieve chronic diarrhea or constipation
Severe conditions of fecal incontinence may require surgery to correct structural damage. Surgery may include a sphincteroplasty or sphincter replacement, to repair a damaged anal sphincter, or a colostomy to collect fecal matter. These procedures are usually reserved for patients who have not responded to lifestyle modifications.
Doctors will determine the most effective treatment approach for each individual condition. With treatment, most people see an improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.