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SOUTH DENVER GASTROENTEROLOGY, P.C.

Fecal Incontinence

What is Fecal Incontinence?

Fecal incontinence describes the inability to control bowel movements, which may cause stool to leak unexpectedly. While this condition can occur in both men and women, it is more common among women and older individuals.

Examples of fecal incontinence may include:

  • Leakage of stool when passing gas.
  • Stool leaking due to exercise or physical activity.
  • Stool staining the underwear after normal bowel movements.
  • A feeling of urgently having to use the bathroom to release stool.
  • Complete loss of control of the bowels.

There are several factors that contribute to fecal incontinence, including weak muscles in the rectum or anus due to frequent diarrhea, constipation, old age, muscle damage due to vaginal childbirth, damage to the nerves that control the muscles in the rectum or anus, the inability of the rectum to stretch properly due to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or certain medical conditions.

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How is Fecal Incontinence Diagnosed

To accurately diagnose fecal incontinence, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, as well as perform a physical exam. Please do not feel embarrassed speaking with your GI doctor or provider regarding your symptoms, as they understand and are here to help. Tests may also be recommended, including an anal manometry, ultrasound, pudendal nerve terminal motor latency test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, MRI and more. These tests can help your doctor to get a better idea of what exactly is happening inside of your body in order to properly diagnose and treat your symptoms.

Treatment Options for Fecal Incontinence

Treatment for fecal incontinence will be dependent on the cause, and may include one of, or a combination of, the following:

Dietary Changes

Avoiding foods or drinks that may cause loose stools like caffeine, beans, spicy foods and dairy products can help to avoid stool leakages. Other foods can be eaten to help thicken the stool which may help to better control bowel movements such as bananas, apple sauce, peanut butter and potatoes.

Medication

Anti-diarrheal drugs or bulk laxatives may be helpful in certain situations.

Exercise and Therapies

If muscle damage is the cause of fecal incontinence, your doctor may recommend certain exercises or therapies to help gain greater control over your bowel movements. This may include biofeedback, in which a specially trained physical therapist teaches you simple exercises to increase the strength of your anal muscles.

Surgery

In cases where an underlying problem is a cause for fecal incontinence, surgery may be required. A sphincteroplasty repairs anal sphincter muscles that were damaged or weakened during childbirth. Surgery to treat rectal prolapse or hemorrhoids can also reduce symptoms.

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Fecal Incontinence or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!


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