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“My mother was 48 at the time of the car accident. She injured her spine and suffer from many issues since then. All the other things we can handle, but this... urine leakage is too much, for me and her. We tried medicines, herbal therapies, all kinds of exercises, but nothing helped. Sometimes, if she doesn’t reach the toilet in time, she even experiences fecal incontinence, she leaks stools. The only thing that is helping is diapers. We have been using your diapers for the last 3 years now. Thank you for making good products. The accidents happen much less now and she is also feeling happier than before.”

- Anonymous writer.

We received this testimony from a retired teacher. We are so grateful that we get the chance to make a difference in people’s lives. We hope this person’s mother finds true happiness in life.

Such is the effect of fecal incontinence. Losing control of bowels is a challenging condition that can have a deep impact on a person’s life. For the former teacher, it has been really bad. Sufferers of bowel leaks are in a constant state of anxiety, never knowing when their body might betray them and leave them humiliated and ashamed. It is tough because they are forced to plan their life around their condition and avoid social situations and activities that they once enjoyed. They might often feel like a burden to their loved ones and feel terribly alone in their condition.

It’s heartbreaking to think that anyone would have to live with a condition so unbearable, but it’s all too common. Fecal incontinence affects about 1 in 10 people and is more common in women and people over the age of 65. Despite this, many people suffer in silence, too embarrassed to seek help or speak out about their condition.

But it's time to break the stigma and start talking about fecal incontinence openly and honestly. By learning more about this condition and the treatment options available, we can start to create a more supportive and understanding society for those living with it.

In this blog, we'll explore everything you need to know about fecal incontinence, from fecal incontinence symptoms to its causes, diagnosis and treatment. Whether you are living with fecal incontinence yourself or are looking to support a loved one who is, this blog is for you.

What is fecal incontinence?

Fecal incontinence is involuntary leakage of solid or liquid feces (stool/poop) or mucus due to an inability to control bowel movements. It is also referred to as bowel incontinence sometimes. Fecal incontinence can range from occasional stool leakage while passing gas or laughing too hard to complete loss of bowel control.

Fecal Incontinence

Types of fecal incontinence

There are two types of fecal incontinence:

Urge: With urge fecal incontinence, you will feel a fecal urgency so suddenly that you won’t be able to make it to the toilet in time.

Passive: With passive fecal incontinence, you won’t be aware that you’re passing stool when it’s happening and might only realize it later from the wetness or the smell of it.

What causes fecal incontinence?

Normal bowel control relies on the proper functioning of:

  • Pelvic floor muscles

  • Rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine)

  • Anal muscles

  • Anal sphincter muscles (These muscles form a ring around the anus and prevents gas and bowel movements from leaking out)

  • Nervous system

When any of these areas are injured, it can result in fecal incontinence.

Some of the common fecal incontinence causes include:

  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, spinal cord injury, dementia, etc.

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Hemorrhoids (inflamed or swollen veins in the rectum and anus)

  • Rectal prolapse (Part of the large intestine slips out the anus)

  • Proctitis (Swelling of the rectum)

  • Rectocele (Tissue wall that separates the rectum and vagina is weakened)

  • Brain injuries

  • Obstetric surgeries (Surgeries performed on a pregnant woman)

  • Vaginal delivery

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Surgeries to remove rectal or anal cancer

Lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of developing fecal incontinence. Lack of physical activity, smoking, and obesity are some of the risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing this condition.

Fecal incontinence diagnosis

The diagnostic process for fecal incontinence can be large. First, your doctor will perform a thorough health and medical history evaluation and a physical test to assess your symptoms and condition.

Then they may order the following tests, and maybe even more, to help reach a diagnosis:

  • A digital rectal exam

  • A pelvic exam (specific to diagnose fecal incontinence in women)

  • Blood and stool test (to check for inflammation or infection)

  • Barium enema (an X-ray with barium contrast)

  • Urine test

  • Electromyography (to examine the function of the nerves and muscles)

  • Anorectal ultrasound

Because there are so many possible causes behind fecal incontinence, some of which can be severe health conditions, thorough testing is vital to rule out everything and determine the root cause and receive treatment.

Fecal incontinence treatments

There are several bowel incontinence treatments; your doctor will most likely start with the simplest treatments as they can improve the condition by 60% in about 2 in 10 people with the condition. These are also the go to treatments for bowel incontinence in elderly. These simple treatments are:

  • Keeping a food diary to help you find which foods worsen your condition and avoid it.

  • Taking diarrhea or constipation medicines.

  • Adding more fiber to your diet to make the stools more solid.

  • Doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, anus, and rectum.

  • Following a set schedule for bowel movements.

If these treatment plans prove ineffective, your doctor will try different therapies:

  • Biofeedback: This treatment involves using sensors to measure muscle activity in the pelvic floor and provide feedback to the patient, allowing them to learn how to better control bowel movements.

  • Injection therapy: Bulking agents, such as silicone or carbon beads, are injected into the anal sphincter to help improve muscle function and reduce episodes of fecal incontinence.

  • Nerve stimulation: The nerves that control bowel movements are stimulated to improve muscle function and reduce fecal incontinence.

There are also some surgical treatments to help improve this condition:

  • Rectal prolapse surgery: If fecal incontinence is caused by rectal prolapse, surgery to repair the prolapse can also help improve bowel control.

  • Artificial anal sphincter: An artificial sphincter is surgically implanted around the anal sphincter and consists of a cuff, a pressure-regulating balloon, and a pump. The cuff is inflated with fluid to prevent involuntary bowel movements, and the pressure-regulating balloon and pump allow for adjustments and control of the cuff.

  • Sphincteroplasty: Injured or separated sphincter is brought back together by stitching.

  • Colostomy: In severe cases where other treatments have failed, a colostomy may be necessary. This involves diverting the colon through an opening in the abdominal wall and attaching a collection bag to collect stool.

Living with fecal incontinence

Living with fecal incontinence can be challenging and may require some adjustments to one's daily routine, but these adjustments can definitely improve the quality of your life.

  • Always have an extra set of clothes and incontinence products such as Friends Adult Diapers and Friends Underpads with you.

  • Locate the nearest bathrooms when you are out and about.

  • Go to the bathroom before you leave the house.

  • Take your medications as directed by your doctor.

  • Wear Friends Adult Diapers to prevent any spills, stains, and embarrassing accidents.

Develop a support system that includes family, friends, and healthcare professionals who can offer you emotional support and guidance in times of need.

FAQs about Fecal Incontinence

1. Is fecal incontinence curable?

Fecal incontinence can be treatable in many cases, but it may not always be curable. The treatment options range from lifestyle changes to medications, surgery, or a combination of treatments.

2. What is the common cause of fecal incontinence?

The most common causes of fecal incontinence include damage to the muscles or nerves in the anal sphincter, diarrhea, and constipation. Other potential causes include childbirth injuries, rectal prolapse, and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

3. What are the first signs of bowel incontinence?

The first signs of bowel incontinence may include the inability to control gas or mild stool leakage. As the condition progresses, more frequent and severe episodes of fecal incontinence may also occur.

4. How do you stop fecal incontinence naturally?

There are some natural remedies that may help with fecal incontinence, such as practicing pelvic floor exercises, adjusting the diet to avoid trigger foods, and increasing fiber intake. However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment based on the underlying cause of fecal incontinence.

5. What are the home remedies for bowel incontinence?

Some bowel incontinence home remedies that may help manage bowel incontinence include:

  • Kegel exercises: These exercises can help strengthen the muscles that control bowel movements.

  • Dietary changes: Eating a high-fiber diet and drinking plenty of water can help regulate bowel movements and reduce the risk of constipation or diarrhea.

  • Scheduled toilet breaks: Setting a regular schedule for using the bathroom can help train the body to have bowel movements at predictable times.

  • Food journal: Keeping a food journal can help you identify what foods are worsening your condition and avoid them.