Fecal Incontinence is the inability to manage the discharge of feces from the rectum, causing stool to exit involuntarily. In fact, many times it happens that the person who suffers from fecal incontinence is not even aware that stool has passed through; this is called passive fecal incontinence. On the flip side, ‘urge’ fecal incontinence occurs when the need to visit the restroom is felt but the person is unable to make it on time before content from the sigmoid colon leaks through the anal sphincter. The issues associated with fecal incontinence are exacerbated when we realize that the amount that is being leaked can range from very little stool to as much as a full bowel movement.
Naturally, this extremely impactful condition can lead to very serious issues personally because fecal incontinence can occur anywhere and at any time without the person’s knowledge. Still, as we saw above, a person aware of the urge of needing to defecate, they are still unable to control soiling themselves.
Why does Fecal Incontinence Occur?
Bowel movements are controlled by a serious of coordinated neural networks found in and around our digestive system. This smorgasbord of neuronal activity is ultimately controlled by the spinal cord. If there is an injury at the spinal level, this may cause the neuronal activity from becoming discombobulated and uncoordinated, leading to irregular and/or uncontrollable peristalsis as well as a loss of ability to control the anal sphincter. External and internal mechanical sphincter damage can also lead to fecal incontinence.
The amount of conditions and diseases that can lead to fecal incontinence is overwhelming, but listed below are the most common:
- Neurological Disorders
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Extremely scary or stressful experiences can lead to loss of control of bodily functions.
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Child bearing
- Dry stools that become lodged in the intestine, causing blockage.
- Injuries to the pelvic floor muscles and/or nerves
How is Fecal Incontinence Diagnosed and Treated?
Diagnosis of Fecal incontinence can be done through various different tests:
1) Anal Ultrasound
2) Balloon Expulsion Test
5) Barium Enema
6) Anal electromyography
7) Anorectal manometry
Proper dieting guidelines play an important role in the treatment of Fecal Incontinence. Physicians will usually recommend a diet high in fiber or fiber supplements. Besides dieting, others options to include in a treatment regimen include Kegel exercises, surgery, biofeedback, sacral nerve stimulation and enemas.