Are you Frequently changing clothes just to feel comfortable throughout the day? Are you constantly aware of the facilities when running errands or out and about?
Fecal incontinence, the inability to control bowel movements leading to involuntary leakage of stool from the rectum, is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it may be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, it is crucial to understand the basics in order to seek appropriate treatment and management.
A Basic Overview of Fecal Incontinence
Let’s go over a brief outline of some of the critical points you will need to recognize the condition and prepare for the types of treatment you may need.
Unfortunately, many issues could cause or add to the embarrassing condition. Some common causes may include damage to the sphincter muscles, nerve damage, or chronic illnesses such as Crohn's disease.
Symptoms may range from occasional leakage to a complete loss of bowel control.
Treatment options may include dietary changes, medications, pelvic floor exercises, and in severe cases, surgery.
It is important to speak with a Gastrointestinal Specialist if you are experiencing symptoms of fecal incontinence, as they can help you navigate appropriate treatment options and improve your quality of life.
Identifying Causes of Fecal Incontinence
This is not a condition that limits itself to exact conclusions. Since it can affect anyone, it is good to recognize when it is just a bout of constipation or diarrhea versus a total loss of bowel control.
The causes of fecal incontinence can vary but commonly include:
Anal Sphincter Muscle or Nerve Damage - The anal sphincter muscle is responsible for controlling the release of stool from the rectum. If the power or nerve is damaged, it can result in an inability to control bowel movements. Childbirth, trauma, infections, and tumors can cause damage. Surgeries and medical procedures involving the pelvic area can also lead to nerve damage.
Rectum Damage - The rectum can become stiff when dealing with chronic inflammation. This damage may be due to colitis, radiation treatment, or surgical procedures involving the rectum and anus.
Chronic Constipation - When there is a consistent blockage in the intestinal tract due to chronic constipation, the rectum becomes stretched, decreasing its sensitivity to fecal matter and ultimately causing the inability to control bowel movements. In addition, the prolonged and constant straining to pass stools can weaken the muscles that control the rectum's opening, leading to fecal incontinence.
Diarrhea - Chronic diarrhea can lead to inflammation and irritation of the rectum, damaging the nerves that control bowel movements.
Signs and symptoms of Fecal Incontinence
The signs and symptoms of fecal incontinence can be subtle, but being vigilant and recognizing them early can lead to better diagnosis and treatment.
Urge Incontinence - this is the lack of ability to stop the urge to defecate. The condition can come on so suddenly that a person would not make it to the restroom in time.
Passive Incontinence - This is when you are simply unaware that you need to defecate. There is no need to try to control it because you do not know it is happening until it is too late.
So symptoms can include unexpected bowel movements, inability to control gas or stool, and having to wear pads or protective undergarments. Any instance of fecal incontinence should be taken seriously as it may be indicative of an underlying medical condition.
Diagnosis methods for fecal incontinence
Fortunately, several diagnosis methods are available that can accurately identify the underlying causes of this issue and provide patients with the knowledge and treatment options they need to improve their quality of life.
Anal Manometry - This specialized medical procedure measures the pressure in the rectum and anus. Typically done to diagnose issues with bowel movement functions, stool elimination, and constipation, this diagnostic exam helps physicians tailor treatment plans to the individual patient's needs.
During an anal manometry test, a small device is gently inserted into the anus to measure muscle contractions and pressure. This test is often used in combination with other diagnostic tools, such as x-rays and MRI scans, and is generally well-tolerated by patients.
MRI Defecography - Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Defecography is a radiological diagnostic that helps examine the functional and structural aspects of the rectum and surrounding pelvic organs during defecation.
The test involves the use of a special MRI machine that takes detailed images of the pelvic region while the patient defecates. This is a non-invasive method, so it can be a preferred choice over traditional methods like x-rays or endoscopy.
Each diagnostic method plays a vital role in helping healthcare professionals assess the various factors contributing to fecal incontinence, such as muscle weakness, nerve damage, or structural abnormalities.
Treatment options available to manage fecal incontinence
The treatment pathway may vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Some treatment options include:
- Lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes
- Pelvic muscle exercises
- Surgical interventions
Additionally, several products are available such as absorbent pads and devices that can aid in managing fecal incontinence. Consulting with a healthcare professional is vital to determine the best treatment plan for each individual.
Tips on how to improve your quality of life with fecal incontinence
One of the most important steps is to adopt a healthy diet. This can include increasing your fiber intake, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding foods that trigger bowel incontinence. Regular physical activity can also help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve digestive function.
Investing in high-quality incontinence products can also make a significant difference, offering comfort and confidence during daily activities. With the right combination of diet, exercise, and support, individuals with fecal incontinence can manage their symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.
Suppose you are in the Jackson, MS area and looking for more specific information on what can be done about fecal incontinence. In that case, you can take the first step and schedule an appointment with the specialists at GI Associates. Don’t suffer in silence!