Fecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. Also called bowel incontinence, fecal incontinence ranges from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.
Common causes of fecal incontinence include diarrhea, constipation, and muscle or nerve damage. The muscle or nerve damage may be associated with aging or with giving birth.
Whatever the cause, fecal incontinence can be embarrassing. But don't shy away from talking to your doctor. Treatments are available that can improve fecal incontinence and your quality of life.
Most adults experience fecal incontinence only during an occasional bout of diarrhea. But some people have recurring or chronic fecal incontinence. They:
For some people, including children, fecal incontinence is a relatively minor problem, limited to occasional soiling of their underwear. For others, the condition can be devastating due to a complete lack of bowel control.
Fecal incontinence may be accompanied by other bowel problems, such as:
When to see a doctor
The causes of fecal incontinence include:
Your digestive tract contains a complex system of organs that converts the food you eat into energy and removes the waste that your body can't digest. Internal and external sphincter muscles serve as ...
A number of factors may increase your risk of developing fecal incontinence, including:
Complications of fecal incontinence may include:
Preparing for your appointment
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Questions to ask your doctor
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor will ask questions about your condition and perform a physical exam that usually includes a visual inspection of your anus. A pin or probe may be used to examine this area for nerve damage. Normally, this touching causes your anal sphincter to contract and your anus to pucker.
Treatments and drugs
Exercise and other therapies
Lifestyle and home remedies
When medical treatments can't completely eliminate incontinence, products such as absorbent pads and disposable underwear can help you manage the problem. If you use pads or adult diapers, be sure they have an absorbent wicking layer on top, to help keep moisture away from your skin.
Female pelvic floor muscles
A woman's pelvic floor muscles work like a hammock to support the pelvic organs, including the uterus, bladder and rectum. Kegel exercises can help strengthen these muscles. ...
Coping and support
If you have fecal incontinence
Because fecal incontinence can be distressing, it's important to take steps to deal with it. Treatment can help improve your quality of life and raise your self-esteem.
If you're caring for someone who has fecal incontinence
Depending on the cause, it may be possible to prevent fecal incontinence. These actions may help:
Last Updated: 2012-11-06
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