Fecal Incontinence

What is it?
Fecal incontinence is the inability to control your bowel movements, causing stools to leak unexpectedly from the rectum.

Normal continence requires the ability to sense the presence of stool in the rectum while being able to contain stool when a bowel movement is not warranted.

Proper functioning of the rectum, anus, and nervous system all contribute to our ability to hold stool

What causes fecal incontinence?
There may be more than one cause of fecal incontinence.

It is often accompanied by bowel symptoms such as frequent diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating. These put strain on the rectal muscles and can cause them to weaken over time.

Other causes may include hemorrhoids, muscle or nerve damage, rectal prolapse, and any other condition that can prevent the rectum and anus from properly holding stool.

How is it treated?
There are a number of tests available to help improve or restore bowel control. If you are experiencing constipation, your doctor may suggest that you follow a strict diet.

If muscle damage is the cause of your fecal incontinence, your doctor may recommend bowel training exercise programs or other therapies to strengthen the muscles around the anus and in the pelvic floor.

For those experiencing nerve damage, other surgical therapies like sacral nerve stimulation may be suggested.

What can I do to prevent fecal incontinence?
Depending on the underlying cause, fecal incontinence may be preventable.

For example, by increasing your exercise, eating high fiber foods, and drinking plenty of fluids, you can reduce constipation. This will be helpful to avoid straining during bowel movements which can weaken muscles or damage nerves and ultimately lead to fecal incontinence.