We get it. Any trouble with our bowel movements can cause distress. Whether your bowel movements are painful, irregular, or perhaps most distressingly not in your control, it can really affect the quality of your life. This is made harder by the fact that speaking to other people about these issues can cause embarrassment, confusion, or cause one to panic about the source of these bowel movement troubles. To help, we’ve created this article to establish how to know if you have fecal incontinence, how to treat it, and how to make sure that this won’t happen again.
What is Fecal Incontinence?
Fecal Incontinence is a condition that makes one unable to control their bowel movements, causing stools to leak from the rectum without warning. Other symptoms include:
- Bloating and Gas
Fecal Incontinence is often caused by diarrhea or constipation but can be caused by nerve damage. The muscle or nerve damage can be also caused by aging or with giving birth. This can present itself as the occasional leaking prior to a bowel movement, to complete loss of bowel control.
How to Diagnose and Treat Fecal Incontinence?
If your Fecal Incontinence is chronic and severe, please consult a doctor as soon as you can. Your doctor will begin with a physical examination and then proceed with any of a number of tests that will help your doctor specifically ascertain the direct cause of your fecal incontinence.
These tests include:
- Digital Rectal Exam – Performed by having a doctor insert a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum in order to test the strength of your sphincter muscles, and any abnormalities
- Balloon Expulsion Test – A small balloon is placed into the rectum and filled with water. Once inserted you will be asked to expel the balloon in the bathroom. If this takes longer than 2-3 minutes you likely have a bowel movement disorder.
- Anal Manometry – A thin tube is inserted into the anus and the rectum with a small balloon at the tip which is expanded to test the strength of your sphincter
- Anorectal Ultrasonography – A thin tube is inserted into the anus, where an attached camera produces video images that allow your doctor to test the strength of the sphincter muscles
- Proctography – While performing a bowel movement on a specially designed toilet, a specialist generates x-ray images for your doctor to evaluate
- Colonoscopy – A narrow tube is inserted through the rectum to inspect the entire rectum
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – An MRI is performed in order to create a detailed image of the muscles of the sphincter, judging the muscles for signs of damage
Once your doctor evaluates the cause of your fecal incontinence, they may decide to prescribe medication including:
- Bulk Laxatives such as MethylCellulose (Citrucel) or Psyllium (Metamucil) in cases of chronic constipation
- Anti Diarrheal Drug such as Diphenoxylate and atropine sulfate (Lomotil) or loperamide hydrochloride (Imodium A-D) in cases of chronic diarrhea
- Bulking Agents can be injected into the walls of your anus, thickening them and making them more stable
Some cases of fecal incontinence require surgical treatment, such as in cases of rectal prolapse, or sphincter damage caused by an accident or childbirth. Your surgeon may recommend:
- Sphincteroplasty – Doctors identify the injured muscle in question and surgical reattach the muscle in an overlapping fashion, creating a stronger tighter sphincter.
- Treating rectal prolapse, or rectocele – While diagnosing your fecal incontinence your doctor might diagnose you with any of these conditions. Repairing and treating these conditions surgically might relieve your fecal incontinence however the longer a prolapse goes untreated, the lower the chances of it solving your fecal incontinence after surgery are.
- Colostomy (bowel diversion) – Your surgeon creates a diversion from your bowels through the abdomen into a special bag that collects your stool. A colostomy is generally considered only after other treatments haven’t been successful.
In the case of muscle damage, your doctor may recommend you begining a program of diet and exercise. Programs like kegel exercises, biofeedback-based physical therapy, and pelvic floor routines can all help by strengthening your sphincter naturally.
Your doctor will often recommend higher forms of dietary fiber and more fruits and vegetables in your diet, in general, to help treat your constipation or diarrhea. Avoiding greasy and fatty foods as well as dairy and caffeine, are also strongly encouraged.
If you or a loved one suffers from fecal incontinence, there is no need to suffer any longer. See a doctor and find out how you receive relief from this condition.