Controlling Bowel Incontinence
Do You Have Fecal Incontinence? It's More Common Than You Think
According to William E. Whitehead, PhD, codirector of the UNC Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders at the University of North Carolina, fecal incontinence can be caused by these factors:
Damage to the anal sphincter muscles, which hold stool inside the body. The most common cause in young and middle-aged women is an injury during childbirth, such as a tear.
Damage to the pelvic floor nervesthat control the sphincter muscles. This can affect your ability to sense when you need to use the bathroom and contract the muscles to hold the stool until you get there. This can also be due to injury during childbirth or a complication of stroke or diabetes.
A reduction in the elasticity of the rectum.Rectal surgery, radiation treatment to the pelvic area, and inflammatory bowel disease can all make the rectum lose elasticity so that it can't hold stool.
Diarrheain people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or irritable bowel syndrome. Loose stool is more difficult to control.
Less than half of those with fecal incontinence tell their doctor, according to Whitehead. Don't be one of them. Special tests can tell if there's muscle or nerve damage by measuring muscle strength and sensation of the sphincters. If damaged nerves are to blame or damage to the muscle is not too extensive, biofeedback combined with Kegel exercises can help you learn how to squeeze the sphincter muscle more effectively, improve rectal sensation, and increase muscle strength.
If diarrhea is to blame for the incontinence, an antidiarrheal medication such as Imodium can help to solve the problem.
Video: Fecal Incontinence: Causes, Risk Factors and Treatments | Colorectal Surgeon Susan Gearhart
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