Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, is a condition describing patients who have lost partial or full control of their bowel movements. This results in stool leakage or the inability to control flatulence in social settings. The severity of bowel incontinence ranges from mild to severe. Regardless of the severity of the condition, it can certainly decrease your quality of life, making socializing and normal daily activities challenging. Fortunately, there are treatments that we provide that improve fecal continence.
If you are suffering from bowel incontinence, it is important to seek medical help from a trusted colorectal surgeon who specializes in advanced treatments for fecal incontinence. Dr. Allen Kamrava is a board-certified general and colorectal surgeon with years of experience providing effective treatment for patients who suffer from fecal incontinence. Contact our team to schedule a consultation and learn about your options and how we can get you back to where you need to be, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Symptoms of Bowel Incontinence
Symptoms of bowel incontinence can range from patient to patient some patients who suffer from bowel incontinence have to wear pads (e.g. Depends) as they have no control of stool loss. For others, it is specifically when they cough or have a looser stool. . For some, who have a condition called urge incontinence, they have only a moment’s notice to get to a toilet before stool passes.
In some cases, patients may be completely unaware of the need to defecate. When this occurs, it is referred to as passive incontinence.
Bowel incontinence may also be accompanied by a number of other bowel issues, including:
If you suffer from any of the above signs or symptoms, it is imperative that you schedule an appointment with an experienced colorectal surgeon that can provide you with the treatment you need to improve your condition.
Causes of Bowel Incontinence
Bowel incontinence can be caused by a number of factors. Many patients who suffer from the condition often have more than one cause of bowel incontinence. The causes can include:
- Muscle damage: Muscle damage can be the result of an injury of the rings of the muscle that are located at the bottom of the rectum, otherwise known as the anal sphincter complex. This injury is often permanent, resulting in the inability to control the urge of stool passing. Muscle damage can be caused by childbirth and the risks are even greater if a patient requires forceps or an episiotomy during delivery.
- Nerve damage: Nerve damage is the result of injury to the nerves that sense stool in the rectum or the nerves that control the anal sphincter. Nerve damage can also be caused during childbirth, or incessant straining during bowel movements, as well as a stroke or spinal cord injury. Chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and others can also be a cause of bowel incontinence, as these types of conditions can affect the nerves.
- Diarrhea: Loose stools from diarrhea can worsen or cause bowel incontinence. This is because loose stools are more difficult to retain as opposed to solid stools.
- Constipation: Patients who suffer from chronic constipation can experience impacted stool, which is essentially a hard mass of stool that develops in the rectum, making it too difficult to pass. When chronic constipation is a problem, it can eventually weaken and overstretch the muscles of the rectum and intestines. This can lead to watery stool moving around the hard mass of stool, causing it to leak out. Chronic constipation can also lead to nerve damage, ultimately resulting in bowel incontinence.
- Hemorrhoids: This condition is characterized by the veins in the rectum beginning to swell, leading to hemorrhoids, which can prevent your anus from closing completely. This can also result in stool leakage.
- Surgery: In some cases, patients who undergo surgery for hemorrhoids, as well as other complex surgeries involving the anus and rectum, can also lead to nerve or muscle damage, resulting in fecal incontinence.
- Decreased Rectal Capacitance: When a patient’s rectum and anus are in good health, the rectum should stretch enough to accommodate stool. However, if the rectum becomes inflexible or scarred due to inflammatory bowel disease, surgery, or radiation treatment, then it can limit the amount of stretching of the rectum, resulting in excess stool leakage.
- Rectal prolapse: Bowel incontinence can also be caused by rectal prolapse, which is a condition that causes the rectum to fall into the anus. This can lead to nerve damage to the rectal sphincter. Patients who suffer from this condition should seek medical treatment as soon as possible because if it persists, it can reduce the likelihood of the nerves and muscles recovering.
As mentioned previously, many patients experience more than one of the above conditions at once. If you suffer from one or more of the conditions, it is imperative that you seek treatment from a trusted colorectal surgeon, such as Dr. Kamrava.
When You Should See a Doctor
Dealing with fecal incontinence is never easy for patients, no matter the severity of their condition. It can lead to a decrease in quality of life, emotional distress (embarrassment, shame, depression, etc.), as well as skin irritation, which can be painful and itchy.
No one deserves to continue living life this way and should seek medical treatment immediately to avoid the condition from worsening. More often than not, patients who suffer from fecal incontinence feel embarrassed to discuss this type of condition with doctors, but we are here to help you get through this and ensure that you receive the necessary treatment.
If you experience any of the signs or symptoms of fecal incontinence, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our team as soon as possible. We are here to provide you with the help you need in order to get relief from your symptoms. Contact us today for more information about the types of treatments we provide.