Articles GI Issues

Do you have a problem with anal leakage? This is known as fecal incontinence when your bowel control goes and feces leak. The American College of Gastroenterology says fecal incontinence is prevalent, affecting more than 5.5 million people in the United States. This article will look at how to deal with a fecal incontinence diagnosis.

What is Bowel Leakage (Fecal Incontinence)

The most prevalent sort of fecal incontinence is urge incontinence. With urge incontinence, you have an urgent feeling to use the restroom but can't make it in time. If you experience urge incontinence, your pelvic floor muscles may be too weak to wait due to nerve damage or prior muscle injury.

Passive incontinence is one type of fecal incontinence. With passive incontinence, small amounts of fluid may leak without your knowledge. Your body might be unable to tell if your rectum is full if you have passive incontinence.

Fecal incontinence can be distressing and mortifying. Some people may be embarrassed and try to conceal the situation. You might be hesitant or embarrassed to discuss fecal incontinence with your doctor because you are afraid or ashamed. However, being open and honest with your doctor is critical in determining and treating your condition.

Is fecal incontinence common?

  • According to medical experts, approximately 1 in 3 people who see a primary health care provider suffer from fecal incontinence.
  • Fecal incontinence is more common in adults over the age of 60.
  • Between 7 and 15 out of every 100 non-hospitalized people have fecal incontinence.
  • One in five adults who are hospitalized have fecal incontinence.
  • Between 50 and 70 percent of people in nursing homes suffer from fecal incontinence.
  • About two children in every hundred suffer from fecal incontinence.

Fecal incontinence affects who?

  • If you're over age 65, you're more likely to have fecal incontinence.
  • Do not physically exercise
  • You may have certain chronic illnesses, medical issues, or health problems
  • If you have had your gallbladder removed
  • If you smoke

Fecal incontinence is more common in children born with congenital disabilities of the spinal cord, anus, or rectum. Children who are constipated are more likely to have fecal incontinence.

Common Symptoms/Causes of Fecal Incontinence

Diarrhea—causes loose, watery stools that go more quickly than solid ones and are more challenging to retain in the rectum. Diarrhea can be caused by various gastrointestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and proctitis.

Constipation—when your stools are large, hard, and difficult to pass—can lead to straining. The hard stools stretch and wear down the muscles in your rectum over time—watery excrement leaks past the weakened muscles.

Muscle injury or weakness—in your pelvic floor, rectum, or anus may cause stool to leak out. These muscles can be weakened by surgery to remove cancer in the anus or rectum, treat anal abscesses and fistulas, or from trauma.

When nerves are damaged—the muscles can't function correctly. For example, if the nerves that send signals to your brain about when there is stool in your rectum are damaged, you may not know when you need to look for a toilet. Nerves can be harmed by long-term straining during bowel movements, brain injuries, or spinal cord injuries.

Various neurologic diseases—that affect the anus, pelvic floor, or rectum nerves can result in fecal incontinence. A few examples of such conditions are dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

If your rectum is scarred or inflamed—it becomes rigid and can't expand as much to keep feces. The stool may leak out of your rectum if it is full quickly. Rectal surgery, radiation therapy for the pelvic region, and Crohn's disease might induce scarring and inflammation in your rectum.

Hemorrhoids—can prevent your anus from fully closing, allowing small amounts of stool or mucus to leak out.

Rectal prolapse—which causes your rectum to fall out of place through your anus, can also prevent the muscles surrounding your anus from completely closing. This lets small amounts of stool or mucus leak out.

Childbirth—sometimes cause anal sphincter injuries, which can then lead to fecal incontinence. The risks are more significant if you experience the following during childbirth: a large baby, forceps delivery, vacuum-assisted delivery, or an episiotomy (a vaginal cut made by the doctor to prevent tearing).

Rectocele—is a condition where your rectum bulges through your vagina. This can occur when the separator muscles between your vagina and rectum become weak over time. Stools may stay in your rectum because of the extra baggage, making it challenging to push stools out.

If you experience fecal incontinence frequently or severely, please see a doctor. Some people can handle mild or infrequent fecal incontinence by themselves. However, if your case is impacting your quality of life negatively or causing emotional/social unrest, it's time to schedule an appointment.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Fecal Incontinence?

To diagnose fecal incontinence and its causes, doctors rely on your medical history, a physical exam, and medical tests.

Keeping a stool diary may help your doctor answer some essential questions. A stool diary is simply a chart that records the details of your daily bowel movements. Your doctor may give you a specific form to fill out, or you can create your document or record the details in a notebook.

Though you may feel uneasy personally discussing matters with your doctor, remember that they are trained professionals who have likely heard it all before. The more information you can give them about your problem, the better they will be able to help. Being open and honest with your physician will help with an accurate diagnosis.

Fecal Incontinence Treatments

The first step to solving your fecal incontinence is making an appointment. Your doctor will discuss with you the possible causes of fecal incontinence and how they can be treated. With easy changes—such as intestinal training, dietary improvements, and medicines—you can see a 60% difference in symptoms. These treatments work for 1 out of every five people who try them.

You may actively participate in your therapy by openly and honestly discussing your symptoms and how well your treatments are working with your doctor.

  • Wearing absorbent pads
  • Diet changes
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Bowel training
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises

The treatment doctors use to treat fecal incontinence depends on the cause. Your doctor can suggest a few of the following therapies:

  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Sacral nerve stimulation
  • Prescription medicines
  • Vaginal balloons
  • Nonabsorbable bulking agents
  • Surgery

The ways you can help manage and treat your fecal incontinence will be recommended to you by your doctor. They can also suggest ways for anal discomfort relief and how to cope with having fecal incontinence. Contact GI Associates to schedule an appointment and get help right away.

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