|Fecal incontinence is a condition,|
with many potential causes.
At a glance, the causes of fecal incontinence are:
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic laxative use
- Bowel, gynecological, prostate, or rectal surgery
- Decreased awareness of sensation of rectal fullness
- Functional disability or abnormality
- Emotional problems
- Injury to the anal muscles due to childbirth
- Nerve or muscle damage
- Severe diarrhea, hemorrhoids, or rectal prolapse
- Stress of unfamiliar environment
The rectum, anus, pelvic muscles, and nervous system must function normally in order for the body to remain continent and hold stool. Any interruption to normal function can lead to incontinence and stool leakage.
There are some more common causes than others. For example, constipation leads to incontinence because it causes the muscles of the anus and intestines to stretch and weaken. When then happens, diarrhea can occur, and stool leakage is more likely to happen. People with hemorrhoids, rectal fistula, rectal prolapse and poor hygiene may have light fecal incontinence, or stool seepage. Other causes include chronic diarrhea, parasite infections, and laxative abuse.
Surgery can often lead to incontinence, especially bowel surgery, as it may damage to muscles and nerves. The same problem (damage to muscles and nerves) may occur in women at the time of vaginal childbirth.
Neurologic diseases such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and spina bifida can be potential causes of fecal incontinence. This is typically a functional disability, where the body signals and nerves are not coordinating, and the individual is not getting the message they need to go. Complications of diabetes can also cause nerve damage, which can cause incontinence.
Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis) and irritable bowel disease may be classified as fecal incontinence and cause stool leakage and other bowel control problems.
If you are suffering from light stool leakage, or total incontinence, talk to your doctor about options. Often dietary changes, medication, and other non-invasive treatment options are available and can improve symptoms or eliminate the problem entirely. In some instances a surgery, medical device, or other procedure may be necessary to reverse the problem. The best way to find out is to see a health care professional for diagnosis and treatment.
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