Bowel incontinence is a socially disruptive condition. People living with incontinence often plan their daily activities around bowel movements. In some instances, fecal incontinence leads to people being homebound, fearing an accident in public. Fecal incontinence affects nearly 18% of the population. In addition, nearly 50% of people living in nursing homes are affected (ASCRS, 2011).
What Is The Cause of Fecal Incontinence?
There can be several causes of fecal incontinence. The most common reason is damage to the anal muscle, or nerves with childbirth.
Incontinence is more common in women, but men are also affected. As women age and their tissues begin to weaken, episodes of incontinence can become problematic.
Other causes of fecal incontinence can include loose stools, diarrhea, and even constipation.
How is Fecal Incontinence Diagnosed?
Your physician will begin with a complete history and physical examination. Your health history will provide pertinent information about the cause of your condition.
Studies specifically designed to test the anal muscles and pelvic nerves may include:
- Anorectal manometry and pudendal nerve testing
Treatment options can vary depending on severity and number of incontinent episodes per week. Non-invasive treatment options include:
- A combination of dietary modifications and over the counter medications
- Biofeedback and/or pelvic muscle exercise
- Injectable bulking agents
- Sacral nerve stimulation
It’s important to know that you are not alone. For many, starting a conversation about fecal incontinence is the most difficult part about getting treated. We want to encourage you to reach out and take back control of your life. You don’t have to live with it as some have previously been told.