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Fecal Incontinence

Q: What is fecal incontinence?rnrn rnrnA: Fecal incontinence, also known as bowel incontinence, is an inability to control bowel movements. This often results in unexpected leakages of liquid stools, or passing of solid stools, sometimes without even realizing it. The condition can range from occasional accidents during episodes of diarrhea to passing stools while passing gas, or a complete loss of bowel control. In passive forms of fecal incontinence, a person may not even feel the need to pass a stool.rnrn rnrnFecal incontinence affects nearly 18 million U.S. adults—that’s approximately 1 in 12 people. Fecal incontinence issues occur more frequently in females, usually after age 40. While bowel problems can affect anyone, there are certain risk factors that contribute to this condition.rnrn rnrnCauses, contributing factors and complicationsrnrn rnrnDamaged nerves from surgery, childbirth or injury can reduce the sensation of needing to pass a stool, making accidents more common due to the inability to reach a toilet on time. Diarrhea can lead to a loss of control when difficult-to-contain, watery stools result in fecal leakage. Constipation can lead to bowel problems by making stool passage difficult. This may lead to bowel leakage of the watery buildup behind the hard stool. Childbirth can also leave the pelvic floor weak, reducing the sense of urgency to have a bowel movement and increasing the rate of accidents.rnrn rnrnPossible impact on daily activities/lifestyle changesrnrn rnrnThe resulting accidents, perhaps even more so than other types of incontinence issues, can lead to emotional distress and feelings of shame and frustration that lead to avoidance of social situations. A frequent bowel leakage or loss of bowel control can also lead to discomfort around the sensitive skin of the anus, such as pain, itching or ulcers. But there are preventative measures you can take and treatments available to help you feel better.rnrn rnrnMeasures to prevent and preparernrn rnrnTreatment is key to feeling better and more confident. However, you can also take control of potential accidents by adding a secondary layer under your clothing. Fecal incontinence products such as adult briefs with barrier systems to help keep feces inside can offer protection against bowel leakage and occasional accidents showing through clothing. Special undergarments can also help reduce odors and stains, especially when used in conjunction with other products like wipes, and stain and odor control products.rnrn rnrnAvailable treatmentsrnrn rnrnAfter performing any of a number of available tests, your doctor can help pinpoint the cause of your bowel problems to recommend the ideal fecal incontinence treatment. Medication may be helpful to prevent diarrhea and watery stools and reduce the risk of accidental movements. Diet changes can help improve the quality and consistency of your stools to prevent underlying causes, such as constipation, or to add more bulk in order to prevent leaks. Exercise can help strengthen the muscles that may have been weakened by surgery or damage.rnrn rnrnBiofeedback, bowel training and other therapies can help regulate and prevent uncontrolled bowel movements. Nerve stimulation devices can also help strengthen bowel muscles, or stimulate bowel emptying to avoid potential accidents later. Surgery may be recommended if a deeper, underlying problem is present, such as a rectal prolapse.rnrn rnrnTopics to discuss with a medical professionalrnrn rnrnMany patients have a difficult time discussing bowel problems, but talking through the condition with your doctor is key to improving the situation. Discuss the symptoms with your doctor, and make sure to mention any other conditions you may experience, as they could have a direct impact on your fecal incontinence.rnrn rnrn rnrn 

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