Fecal Incontinence Definition

Loss of bowel control – occurs more frequently in young children and in elderly adults, though can occur at any age. Fecal impaction, in which stool hardens in the rectum, is a common cause of fecal incontinence, particularly in children, as digestive waste that continues to move through the colon forces its way around the impaction and leaks from the anus because the rectum has no capacity to store it.

Fecal incontinence also may result from injury or damage to the nerves that provide sensation to the perineum and rectal area or that control the anal sphincter (muscle that regulates the discharge of stool).

Such injury may be congenital (such as may occur with spina bifida and other congenital anomalies affecting the spinal cord), the consequence of trauma to the perineal area during childbirth (particularly episiotomy), a complication of surgery (such as to treat hemorrhoids or anal fissure), or a side effect of radiation therapy to treat cancer.

Fecal Incontinence Treatment

Though fecal incontinence is more common among those over age 70, it is not a natural consequence of aging. Treatment can improve or eliminate fecal incontinence in most circumstances.

Treatment may include “retraining” the defecation response (biofeedback), surgery to repair damaged muscle tissues or a weakened anal sphincter, or therapies to relieve inflammatory bowel disease (ibd) and other conditions in which there is inflammation of the colon.

Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products adds fiber to the diet, which improves gastrointestinal motility (the movement of digestive content through the gastrointestinal tract). Regular physical activity, such as daily walking, also improves gastrointestinal motility.


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