Expert Health Articles

Fecal Incontinence

Dr. Lorie ThomasDr. Lorie Thomas

Beyond MedSpa

Recently there has been much talk about urinary incontinence, but no one seems to discuss fecal incontinence. People are so reluctant to discuss this subject, but the prevalence rate is underestimated.

Fecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements, causing feces to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. Fecal incontinence, which is also referred to as bowel 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. This may have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life both socially and economically. Continence depends on a number of factors such as mental function, stool volume and consistency, rectal compliance and muscle function.

Initial management may include supportive care and medical therapy. Your doctor may also recommend avoiding foods or activities that worsen symptoms or the use of incontinence pads. What you eat and drink affects the consistency of your stools and your doctor may recommend drinking plenty of fluids or eating fiber-rich foods. If muscle damage is causing fecal incontinence, your doctor may recommend a program of exercise and other therapies to restore muscle strength. Medical therapy may also be used to reduce stool frequency and improve stool consistency.

If initial management fails then biofeedback may be an option. Biofeedback is done with a physical therapist who is specialized in pelvic floor therapy and will help you practice relaxation exercises, which will help you control different body functions.

A final option may be sacral nerve stimulation. This involves stimulation of the nerve to improve fecal continence. These nerves regulate the sensation and strength of your rectal and anal sphincter muscles. This is an option that can first be “tested” in the office to see if it will be a successful option. Most insurance plans cover this, including Medicare.

It is important for both men and women to be aware that fecal incontinence is more common than once thought. There are a variety of ways to manage fecal incontinence and one does not need to suffer in silence any longer.