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About Bowel Incontinence

Most people feel more than a bit uneasy when they consider talking to their friends, family, and doctor about bowel incontinence. If you suffer from the inability to control your bowel movements, you are not alone. This condition affects millions of people.

Definition

Bowel incontinence, also known as fecal incontinence, prevents you from controlling your bowel movements. You may experience unexpected leaks, or use the bathroom very frequently. Some people experience a combination of these symptoms.

Causes

Bowel incontinence is usually an acquired disorder. It may be caused by:1,2

  • Obstetrical injury from pregnancy or childbirth
  • Stroke or advanced age
  • Nerve or muscular damage caused by surgery or injury
  • Conditions that affect the nerves, such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Congenital disorders

Some people may suffer from bowel incontinence due to not being able to sense a bowel movement, while others are able to sense a bowel movement but can't hold it until they get to a bathroom.

Diagnosis

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms.

References

  1. Tan JJY, Chan M, Tjandra JJ. Evolving therapy for Fecal Incontinence. Dis Colon Rectum 2007 Nov;50(11):1950-1967.
  2. Wald, A. Fecal incontinence in adults. N Egl J Med 2007;356:1648-55.

 

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 13 Feb 2013

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