(Incontinence, Fecal; Bowel Incontinence; Incontinence, Bowel)
by Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
Fecal incontinence is the loss of control over the bowels. Some people may have uncontrolled release of just gas and liquid stool. Others have no control over the release of solid waste. Many people with this condition also have trouble controlling the release of urine.
This condition can lead to issues, such as depression or isolation. If you think you have this condition, contact your doctor right away.
Women are more likely to suffer from this condition than men are. Many cases are a result of an injury to the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support pelvic organs. Injury can happen through pregnancy or delivery. Other causes include:
Risk Factors TOP
Risk factors include:
The main symptom is the inability to control bowel movements, which leads to stool leakage.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you have fecal incontinence. Your doctor can help find the underlying cause.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may send you to a specialist, such as:
Tests may include the following:
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include:
Your doctor may suggest changes to your diet. You may be referred to a nutritionist for diet ideas. Examples of dietary changes include:
Absorbent diapers are often used with fecal incontinence. Another option is an anal plug. These plugs, which are available in a variety sizes and shapes, may be helpful for some people to control symptoms.
Your doctor may suggest using biofeedback. This method can retrain your body’s responses.
A bowel movement schedule can also train your bowels. For example, you can pick four times throughout the day to try to go to the bathroom.
Learn how to do Kegel exercises. These exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Surgical procedures may be used to treat this condition when other treatments have failed. Examples include:
To help reduce your chance of getting fecal incontinence, take the following steps:
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Canadian Society of Intestinal Research
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Last reviewed March 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 3/15/2013