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Fecal incontinence, also called as bowel incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements, causing leakage of feces or stools. It is a common condition, especially in older adults. This condition ranges from an inability to hold a bowel movement until reaching the toilet to passing stool without being aware of it. It is mainly due to damage of muscle around the anus. Patients with this condition feel ashamed to go in public and hence avoid social activities. Various treatment options such as medications and surgery are available which can effectively treat fecal incontinence.
Diarrhea is the main symptom of fecal incontinence. Few people experience it occasionally, whereas few people have recurring or chronic fecal incontinence. The patients may not be able to resist the urge to defecate, a condition called as urge incontinence. Few people experience passive incontinence, a condition in which they may not be aware of the stool to pass, it happens unknowingly.
Other symptoms include anal itching, a buttock skin infection, constipation, gas, and bloating.
The person with these symptoms should not feel shy to discuss the problem and consult the doctor immediately. The mothers should frequently check if the child develops fecal incontinence and notify the doctor immediately.
The most common cause of fecal incontinence is damage to the anal sphincters (muscles around the anus). This condition usually occurs during vaginal birth which damages the anal sphincters and nerves. Therefore, women are at higher risk of fecal incontinence than men. Anal surgery may also damage the anal sphincters and nerves, resulting in fecal incontinence. Other causes include:
The following factors may increase the risk of fecal incontinence:
Fecal incontinence should be treated soon after the condition is noticed or diagnosed because if it is not treated in early stages, it may result in complications like emotional distress, skin irritation, and chronic diseases like Chron’s disease and cancer.
The physician performs physical examination to check the strength of the anal sphincter muscle by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum. Other tests which help in diagnosing the condition include:
Based on the cause and severity of the disease, the following treatment options are available:
Fecal incontinence caused by muscle damage can be managed by performing pelvic floor exercises. Other treatment options include:
Surgery may be required for correcting the problems that occur during birth such as rectal prolapse or sphincter damage. The various surgical techniques include:
Making certain lifestyle changes can be very helpful in preventing or managing fecal incontinence. Some of them include:
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