Talking to your doctor is the first step toward freedom from bowel incontinence. Causes of Bowel Incontinence The most common cause of bowel incontinence is damage to the muscles around the anus anal sphincters. Vaginal childbirth can damage the anal sphincters or their nerves. That's why women are affected by accidental bowel leakage about twice as often as men. Anal surgery can also damage the anal sphincters or nerves, leading to bowel incontinence.
There are many other potential causes of bowel incontinence, including: Diarrhea often due to an infection or irritable bowel syndrome Impacted stool due to severe constipation , often in older adults Nerve damage due to diabetes , spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis , or other conditions Radiation damage to the rectum such as after treatment for prostate cancer Cognitive thinking impairment such as after a stroke or advanced Alzheimer's disease More than one cause for bowel incontinence is frequently present.
It's also not unusual for bowel incontinence to occur without a clear cause. Diagnosis of Bowel Incontinence Discussing bowel incontinence may be embarrassing, but it can provide clues for a doctor to help make the diagnosis. During a physical examination , a doctor may check the strength of the anal sphincter muscle using a gloved finger inserted into the rectum. Other tests may be helpful in identifying the cause of bowel incontinence, such as: If diarrhea is present, stool testing may identify an infection or other cause.
A tube with a camera on its tip is inserted into the anus. This identifies any potential problems in the anal canal or colon. A short, rigid tube anoscopy or a longer, flexible tube sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be used. A pressure monitor is inserted into the anus and rectum.
This allows measurement of the strength of the sphincter muscles. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the anus. This produces images that can help identify problems in the anal and rectal walls.
These tests measure the responsiveness of the nerves controlling the sphincter muscles. They can detect nerve damage that can cause bowel incontinence.
Magnetic resonance imaging of the pelvis can be performed, potentially while a person moves her bowels on a special commode. This can provide information about the muscles and supporting structures in the anus, rectum, and pelvis. Treatments for Bowel Incontinence Bowel incontinence is usually treatable. In many cases, it can be cured completely.
Recommended treatments vary according to the cause of bowel incontinence. Often, more than one treatment method may be required to control symptoms. Nonsurgical treatments are often recommended as initial treatment for bowel incontinence.
These steps may be helpful: Eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. This can make stool more bulky and easier to control. This may help prevent diarrhea. Drink several glasses of water each day. This can prevent constipation. Try these medicines to reduce the number of bowel movements and the urge to move the bowels: