Encyclopedia

Fecal incontinence

Faecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements, resulting in the unexpected leakage of feces from the rectum.

The condition is also called bowel incontinence. It ranges from accidental passing of stool when passing gas to complete loss of control over bowel movements.

The most common causes of the condition are diarrhea, constipation, and muscle pain or nerve damage. Muscle and nerve damage may be related to the aging process or childbirth.

Whatever the cause, loss of control over bowel movement can be an extremely distressing condition. But one should not be afraid to discuss their problem with the GP.

For those affected, there are treatment methods that can help control bowel movements and improve quality of life.

What are the symptoms?

Most people only experience bowel incontinence with an occasional bout of diarrhea. But others have recurrent or chronic bowel movements.

The most characteristic manifestations of the condition are:

• Inability to control the passage of intestinal gases or stools, which may be liquid or solid;

• Sometimes the condition is functional, a person cannot reach the toilet in time. For example, the rectum is too full and the strong urge to defecate cannot be controlled.

Intestinal incontinence can be accompanied by other problems such as:

• Diarrhea;
• Constipation;
• Gas and bloating;

What are the causes?

• Muscle damage – damaged ring muscles at the end of the rectum can make it very difficult to hold stool properly. This damage can happen during childbirth, especially if an episiotomy is performed or the baby is removed with forceps

Damage to the nerves that sense the presence of stool in the rectum or those that control the anal sphincter. Nerve damage can be caused by constant straining to defecate, a spinal cord injury, or a stroke.

• Constipation – chronic constipation can cause the formation of a mass of dry and too much stool that is too large to pass. The muscles in this part of the colon weaken subsequently.

This allows watery stools from the upper part of the rectum to flow unimpeded. Chronic constipation can also cause nerve damage.

• Diarrhea – harder stools are more easily stored in the rectum than watery stools, so diarrheal stools can cause or worsen bowel incontinence.

Reduced rectal capacity – usually the rectum is stretched to store faeces. But if its walls are too tight from surgery, radiation therapy, or inflammatory bowel disease, it can’t stretch too much, and so the extra amount of stool may leak out on its own.

Surgery – surgical treatment of dilated veins in the rectum or anus /hemorrhoids/, as well as more complex operations on these organs, can lead to muscle and nerve damage leading to inability to control bowel movements.

Treatment of fecal incontinence

Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and bowels, and in women the uterus, in many cases help to control bowel movements better .

To perform Kegel exercises, tighten the muscles that you use to control the flow of urine. Hold the muscles tight for 3 seconds and then relax for 3 seconds. Repeat this movement 10 times.

When you feel that your muscles are strengthening, keep them contracted longer until you can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions of the exercise.

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