Fecal Incontinence

fecal incontinence

Nearly 18 million adults in the United States suffer from what is known as fecal incontinence. Also known as bowel incontinence and stool incontinence, fecal incontinence is defined as the loss of bowel control leading to the involuntary loss of fecal matter.

What Causes Fecal Incontinence?

Fecal Incontinence can be caused by many things, including:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Nerve Damage
  • Muscle Weakness/Damage
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Risk factors such as age and gender also play a role in bowel incontinence. Older adults are more likely to develop some form of stool incontinence, but it is not considered a normal part of the aging process.

Females are more likely than males to be effected by fecal incontinence. Over 63 percent of fecal incontinence patients over the age of 30 are female. Women who have given birth vaginally also have a high risk of developing FI.

Fecal Incontinence and Lifestyle Changes

Finding the cause of the problem is the first step in bowel incontinence treatment. Once the problem has been diagnosed, a physician could suggest several different courses of treatment.

For minor stool incontinence issues, a doctor likely will suggest that the patient alters their lifestyle. Making changes to your diet may improve and eliminate incontinence issues. Doctors recommend that you eat the right amount of fiber, eat fruit sparingly and drink plenty of water a day.

There are certain things that cause diarrhea that fecal incontinence sufferers will want to avoid:

  • Spicy Food
  • Smoked/Cured Meat
  • Dairy Products
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Greasy/Fatty Foods

A doctor may also ask a fecal incontinence patient to keep a food diary to track your daily eating habits and bowel movements.

Conservative Fecal Incontinence Treatment Methods

There are a number of other conservative methods used to treat bowel incontinence. Medication such laxatives or constipating agents can be purchased at nearly every pharmacy or supermarket. Evacuation aids such as enemas or suppositories are also widely available.

A pelvic floor exercise regimen can help alleviate the symptoms of stool incontinence. Bowel training and having a regular bowl control pattern can also help and ultimately eliminate fecal incontinence.

If all conservative methods have failed, surgery is also an option. Before beginning any course of treatment, always consult your physician.