What Causes Fecal Incontinence?
There are many possible causes of fecal incontinence. So, in most cases, it results from some combination of diarrhea or damage to the anal sphincter. This is in addition to neurologic causes.
- Diarrhea – Diarrhea can lead to loss of liquid stool. Often, if the diarrhea is then treated, the person will then be able to control their bowel movements.
- Damage to the anal sphincter- Damage to the muscles of the anal sphincter is generally caused by vaginal childbirth. In addition, it can be caused by hemorrhoid repair as well as anal surgery. Lastly, it can then lead to incontinence.
- Neurologic causes – Neurologic disorders include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, as well as spinal cord injury. In addition, it can include nerve damage during vaginal childbirth. Therefore, it can decrease the sensation and control of the anal sphincter.
- Impaired stretching of the rectum – Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) and radiation proctitis can impair the rectum’s ability to expand and store fecal matter.
- Constipation – When hardened feces accumulate in the rectum, this can then cause the anal sphincters to relax. In addition, it can also allow liquid stool to escape around the blockage.
So, in some cases, the cause of fecal incontinence cannot be identified. However, this most commonly occurs in middle-aged as well as older women. In addition, the cause of fecal incontinence is often established with a thorough discussion with a gastroenterologist. Lastly, it is also established with a physical exam as well as diagnostic testing.
What tests or treatments are available for fecal incontinence?
Firstly, after discussing symptoms, the gastroenterologist may recommend a colonoscopy. In addition, they may recommend a sigmoidoscopy as well as an anoscopy. Consequently, this is to directly examine the colon as well as the rectum. Sometimes, imaging tests can help to then identify the source of incontinence. In addition, an ultrasound or MRI of the rectum can identify structural abnormalities of the rectum. Furthermore, anorectal manometry can then detect if the internal pressure of the rectum is impaired. In addition, it can detect if rectal sensation, as well as rectal reflexes, are impaired. Also, stool tests for infection as well as inflammation are also helpful.
Next, the most common treatments for fecal incontinence are medical or biofeedback. In addition, this includes electrical stimulation as well as surgery. Furthermore, medical therapies include bulking agents as well as anti-diarrheal medications. In addition, this includes anticholinergic medications as well as defecation regimens. Furthermore, biofeedback also involves working with a physical therapist to then identify as well as retrain the muscles of the anal sphincter. Next, anal as well as sacral nerve stimulation can also reduce rectal leakage. Finally, a variety of surgical procedures can be performed to then eliminate fecal incontinence. Lastly, these procedures can range from repair of the anal muscles to colostomy.
Finally, fecal incontinence can create anxiety as well as lead to social isolation. In addition, people who suffer from fecal incontinence should learn as much as possible about their condition. In addition, they should also discuss their symptoms honestly with their gastroenterologist. Consequently, this is a treatable condition.