Fecal Incontinence: Losing Control of Your Bowels
Incontinence can happen both ways where there’s urinary incontinence and there’s fecal incontinence. When you have a problem with your bowels and are unable to hold having a bowel movement until you get to the bathroom, you need to consult with your doctor. With accidental leakage for liquid or solid stool when you pass gas, this can be quite an embarrassing situation. Rather than hiding the problem you have to talk to an experienced healthcare provider to find out what’s causing it and also to find treatment. Most of the time, with fecal incontinence, there’s an underlying medical problem.
People who Get Fecal Incontinence
This condition is a way for the body to tell you that something is wrong. With that fact stated- you can understand that it’s pretty common for people to have this. Although it’s not always part of aging, this condition happens a lot with older people. It’s also more common with women than men.
Risk Factors for Fecal Incontinence
- Poor health
- Injury to the nervous system
- Injury to the pelvic floor, especially with cases like difficult childbirth where tissues and muscles are damaged.
These risk factors can also be considered as the main causes for fecal incontinence. When you have diarrhea, you’ll have more loose stools and this fills the rectum very quickly. When you have difficulty holding this in, you can have incontinence. On the other side of the spectrum, constipation is also one cause for fecal incontinence. Let’s say you’ve only had two bowel movements in the whole week. This can mean that you have large stools stuck in your rectum. When there’s too much there already, it can stretch the anal sphincter and you have a reduced hold on stool.
Losing stretch with the rectum can also lead to fecal incontinence. With the normal conditions, the rectum should stretch enough to hold stool until an individual can have a bowel movement. If you’ve undergone things like radiation treatment, rectal surgery and have inflammatory bowel disease, you’ll have a problem with the rectum losing its stretchability. Hemorrhoids are another risk factor and cause for fecal incontinence. When these develop on the anus, the anal sphincter will have a problem with closing completely. As an effect, small amounts of liquid stool can leak out of the anus.
For all the different risk factors and causes, what causes your problem has to be determined in order for the right treatment to be provided.
The Process of Diagnosis for Fecal Incontinence
Diagnosis for this condition will largely depend on data that the doctor has on the patient. For the most part, your doctor will look at your medical history, do a physical exam as well as take medical tests. You also have to be ready to answer questions about your condition and answer the questions truthfully. Some of the questions would be:
- When did the fecal incontinence start?
- How much stool leaks do you have?
- If it’s because of gas, can it be controlled?
Depending on your answers to these questions, your family practitioner may refer you to a doctor specializing in problems for the digestive system. You might have to visit a colorectal surgeon, a gastroenterologist to get a clearer picture about your condition. Tests like anal manometry, proctography, or MRI might have to be done to get more information about fecal incontinence. Through medical tests like anal electromyography, the pelvic floor as well as the rectal muscles will be tested for nerve damage which can be the likely cause for fecal incontinence.
Treatment for the Condition
Once the causes for fecal incontinence are determined and the underlying problems are diagnosed, treatment can begin. This can consist of the following methods:
- Proper diet – having the right amounts of fiber in your diet can help with this condition. You can take care of diarrhea or constipation with eating right. It’s also the same with getting enough fluids in your body.
- Kegel exercises – when the muscles for your bowel have weakened, it just takes a little exercise to get more control over your bowels.
- Bowel training
- Surgery – when all else fails, this is the last resort for treatment for fecal incontinence.