Fecal incontinence

Fecal incontinence is when someone is unable to control their own bowel movements. This can cause liquid or soft stool to leak from the rectum. This may be a minor thing such as a small amount of leakage when someone is passing gas or may be as bad as someone losing all of their bowel control.

So what are some of the causes of fecal incontinence? One of the most common causes of this problem can be chronic constipation. When someone is constipated constantly their anal sphincter muscles can become weaker due to having to stretch so much from having to pass hard stool constantly. In addition when very hard stool is in the rectal vault, liquid stool that is behind it may move down around the hard mass and leak out the rectum causing this problem. Having diarrhea can cause fecal incontinence. This of course is usually a temporary problem unless it is associated with a chronic disease. If it is chronic it can cause fecal incontinence.

Muscle damage especially damage to the anal sphincter can lead to problems with fecal incontinence. The anal sphincter is a ring shaped muscle that holds the stool in the body until it is ready to be evacuated. If this muscle is damaged and weakened then some leakage can occur. This type of problem is usually seen in women who have been through childbirth and have had large infants or difficult births in which forceps were used. These types of injuries may not show up for years after the event so the reasons may not be evident at the time it appears.

Nerve damage can also cause fecal incontinence. A difficult childbirth and forceps delivery or large episiotomy can cause nerve damage in the area of the anus and possibly nerve damage which can lead to this problem. Other ways that nerve damage can occur are spinal cord injuries and stroke victims. Some diseases can cause nerve damage as well such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Some surgery can cause scarring of the rectum and anus such as surgery for hemorrhoids. This can lead to fecal incontinence. Disease process such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can cause scarring of the intestines and cause problems with bowel movements. This can also lead to problems with incontinence.

Other conditions that can lead to fecal incontinence can include a prolapsed rectum which can occur in women. This can also occur in people who have abused laxatives on a chronic basis. Last it can occur as a normal part of aging.

So how can fecal incontinence be treated? Treatments for this problem can include treatment for chronic diarrhea such as anti-diarrheal medications. For people who have chronic constipation there are laxatives which can be used on a daily basis that are not harmful or addicting now and are safe for use. There are also stool softeners that can be used to make bowel movements easier to pass.

Other therapies that your physician might offer are to suggest dietary changes to help such as getting more fiber in the diet to help make bowel movements more fluid. They may offer help with a bowel training program and exercises to help to retrain the anal sphincter in order to get it to work better.

There are effective treatments for this condition so no one should be embarrassed by this! Many women are not comfortable talking with their health care professional about this problem. They should talk with their physician and get proper treatment as this problem can lead to chronic skin irritation and even break down the skin around the anus and buttocks.

Last updated on Apr 14th, 2009 and filed under Digestive Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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