Bowel incontinence is the involuntary passage of stool. This happens when a person loses control of his bowel movements. Treatments for this condition depends on its causes. Here are a few things you should know about bowel incontinence.
- Constipation can eventually lead to bowel incontinence. When constipation is left untreated, it will result to fecal impaction. This is a condition where a large mass of hardened, dry stool has developed in your rectum and is hard to expel. As your rectal muscles stretch to accommodate the impacted stool, it will also become weak. A weak rectal muscle will not be able to effectively hold back your stool.
- Diarrhea. Hyperactive bowel movements lead to involuntary passage of stool. Also, your rectum is unable to effectively retain loose stools than solid stools.
- Damaged anal sphincter. This is a group of muscles that helps hold back your stool until such time that you’re ready to defecate. A damaged sphincter will lead to a leakage of stool. One of its causes is childbirth. It may be because the sphincter is accidentally cut during episiotomy or is overly stretched during vaginal delivery.
- Nerve damage. If the nerves that control your anal sphincter are damaged, you’ll lose the sensation to defecate leading to involuntary passage of stool. Some conditions that may cause nerve damage which may affect your anal sphincter are stroke, tumor, radiation therapy, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.
- Loss of muscle strength. When your rectal muscle has weakened or is unable to accommodate your stool, it will result to bowel incontinence. Surgery and Inflammatory Bowel diseases, like ulcerative colitis may damage your rectal muscles. Aging also causes your muscles to become weak.
- Add fiber to your diet. Fiber helps soften your stool and improves digestion. (Learn how to increase fiber in your diet)
- Have small frequent meals. Eating 3 large meals a day may irritate your bowel, causing hyperactive bowel movements that may lead to diarrhea.
- Drink water. It will cleanse your body, improve digestion and prevent constipation.
- Avoid foods that may irritate your bowel. Try not too eat spicy and oily foods. It may upset your digestive system and cause diarrhea. If you’re lactose intolerant, avoid dairy products.
- Add bulk to your diet by eating foods like bananas, yogurt and rice. Eating these kinds of food will give you soft solid stool that your rectal muscles will be able retain and expel easily. This will prevent constipation and loose bowel.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. These substances irritate your digestive system and worsens bowel incontinence.
- You may also engage in a bowel retraining program to treat incontinence. Your doctor may require you to defecate at a certain time everyday. This will make your body adjust to your daily routine. You may also be required to follow certain exercises to strengthen your anal sphincter.
- Biofeedback is a method used to monitor rectal muscle strength and your anal sphincter’s condition. By knowing these information, you’ll be able to gauge the kind of exercises you have to perform to strengthen your weak muscles.
- Sacral nerve stimulation is a technique that directly stimulates your sacral nerves through the use of electrical impulses. This procedure is effective on most patients with nerve damage but have intact anal sphincter.
- Antidiarrheal drugs help control hyperactive bowel movements.
- Anticholinergic medications lessen intestinal secretions and control bowel movements.
- Opium derivatives also control bowel movements and improve intestinal tone.
- Laxatives and enemas may be used for chronic constipation and fecal impaction. These will aid the body in restoring proper bowel movements.
- Stool softeners are used to prevent fecal impaction.
Doctors may decide to perform surgical procedures for severe cases.
- Sphincteroplasty is a surgical procedure done to repair damaged and weakened anal sphincter. The damaged areas are removed and the remaining parts are stitched together resulting to a stronger and tighter sphincter.
- Sphincter replacement. If the damage is unrepairable, your doctor may decide to use an artificial anal sphincter.
- Colostomy is a procedure where a stoma or opening is created in the abdomen. The stool is then directed towards this area. You will be required to wear a colostomy bag, which will hold your stool.
- Surgical procedures to correct underlying conditions. There are cases where an underlying condition causes bowel incontinence. For patients with hemorrhoids, a hemorrhoidectomy may be all that is needed to treat the incontinence.
Bowel incontinence can be an embarrassing condition for most people. Some are even ashamed to see a doctor. Remember that there are many ways to treat this illness. Visit your doctor and discuss with him all the possible ways that you can do to manage bowel incontinence.