Why Does Fecal Incontinence Occur?
The inability to control bowel movements is typically the result of nerve and muscle damage in the rectum and anus. Proper bowel function relies on a variety of factors, such as rectal sensation, anal sphincter pressure, and rectal storage capacity. Rectal sensation is what signals an individual when its time to have a bowel movement. The anal sphincter is the muscle responsible for keeping stool contained in the rectum. Once stool travels to the rectum, it can remain inside for a certain amount of time, depending on an individual’s rectal stretch and storage capacity. Fecal incontinence can occur when any one of these factors malfunctions.
Fecal incontinence can be upset your daily activities and significantly impact your health, relationships, and overall quality of life.
Who is at Risk for Developing Fecal Incontinence?
Although fecal incontinence can affect anyone, it is more commonly diagnosed in women and elderly patients and is estimated to affect nearly 18 million people in the U.S. Depending upon the extent of your condition, fecal incontinence can cause minor and occasional leakage to complete bowel loss. You may have an increased risk for developing fecal incontinence if you:
- Had a difficult childbirth, followed by damage to your pelvic floor
- Have chronic diarrhea
- Have poor physical health with chronic digestive issues
- Have a damaged nervous system
Our team can review your unique medical history to determine the factors that my contribute to your condition.
What Causes Fecal Incontinence?
Muscle and nerve damage to the pelvic floor is the leading cause of fecal incontinence. Other triggers may include:
- Prolonged diarrhea or constipation
- Childbirth that required forceps or an episiotomy
- Rectal surgery
- Certain neurologic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, or stroke
- Complications from diabetes
- Poor rectal storage capacity due to loss of stretch
- Rectal prolapse
- Overstraining when defecating
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Fecal incontinence can cause patients to experience emotional distress and physical discomfort, irritating the skin around the anus.
Treatments We Provide
After diagnosing your condition, we may recommend a variety of treatment options depending upon the source of your condition. Making a few simple adjustments to your diet and restoring the muscles of your pelvic floor with bowel training exercises can often reverse fecal incontinence. When conservative methods have proven ineffective, surgery may be necessary for moderate to severe cases. At Colon & Rectal Surgical Specialists of New York, our colorectal specialists offer a variety of nonsurgical and surgical treatments, including:
- Diet and Lifestyle Modifications: Determining the root of why you have diarrhea or struggle from constipation can help restore bowel control. This may include removing or adding certain foods from your diet, adjusting your fiber intake, drinking more water, and emptying your bowels as soon as you have the urge.
- Medication: Certain medications, such as anti-diarrhea drugs, stool softeners, and laxatives can help control regular bowel movements. For patients with inflammatory bowel disease, we may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications.
- Bowel Exercises: For patients with damaged pelvic floor muscles, we may prescribe a series of activities, such as Kegel exercises, to help strengthen weak sphincter muscles. Your doctor may also recommend developing a regular bowel movement schedule to help retrain your digestive tract.
- Surgery: In cases where the pelvic floor muscles have sustained irreparable damage, surgery may be required to repair or replace the damaged muscles.
Our team can customize your treatment plan to address your unique needs and goals.
Contact Our Office
Fecal incontinence can upset your daily activities and significantly impact your health, relationships, and overall quality of life. To learn more about the treatments we provide, contact our office online or call (516) 217-8626 to schedule your consultation with one of our colorectal specialists.