What Is Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is the involuntary passage of feces, gas or mucus from the anus, resulting from loss of bowel control.


Fecal incontinence may be very common when a person is having severe diarrhea or when there is leakage of liquid stool or mucus from around a fecal impaction in the rectum (paradoxic diarrhea). But they are temporary conditions which get resolved quickly as soon as the cause is removed. Injuries to the spinal cord resulting in abnormal functioning of the nerves controlling the anus, prolapse of the rectum into the anus and diabetic neuropathy are some other usual causes of fecal incontinence. Direct injury inflicted to the anus, or general injury to the pelvic area at the time of childbirth, and tumors present in the anus, also cause fecal incontinence.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you are incontinent, Physical examination of the anus and the rectum is done to detect any structural abnormality present. The anus and the surrounding area may be checked for sensations to detect any neurologic abnormality that may be present. A sigmoidoscopy is usually done to detect any abnormality inside the rectum and the anal passage. Imaging tests such as ultrasound scan or MRI scan are also done. Tests to assess the muscular and neurologic function of the pelvic area also may be necessary.

Establishing regularity in bowel movements and bulking up of the stool with extra fiber in the diet are measures which usually help in controlling fecal incontinence. If the problem persists, the drug loperamide, which has the property of slowing down the movements of the digestive track, may help. Strengthening the muscles of the anal sphincters by alternate contraction and relaxation exercise often helps in achieving bowel control. A majority of people with fecal incontinence are benefitted by biofeedback; a technique to sensitize the rectum and to re-train the anal sphincters. Structural defects in the anus can be surgically corrected to achieve continence. Tumors in the anus or the rectum can also be removed by surgery.

If none of the above measures bear fruit, a surgical procedure called colostomy may have to be done. It involves the stitching up of the anal opening to stop the passage of feces via the anus, while providing another outlet from the large intestine to wall of the abdomen. The plastic tube attached to the outlet drains into a plastic bag which can be emptied manually.

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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