Are you having trouble making it to the bathroom in time? Do you notice issues such as leakage, particularly when passing gas? If so, these are signs of fecal or bowel incontinence. While this is an issue that may occur with older age, there are a variety of reasons why someone may deal with this problem. Here’s what you should know about incontinence and how a gastroenterologist will treat it.
What is fecal incontinence?
Whenever there is trouble controlling the bowels this is often known as fecal or anal incontinence. Fecal incontinence can appear as stool leakage when passing gas or during physical activity. You may feel as if you can’t control your bowel movement or you may feel like you’re not going to make it to the bathroom in time. You may even see stool in your underwear. In more severe instances, a person may experience a total loss of bowel control.
Why does fecal incontinence occur?
There are several reasons why someone might deal with this problem. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Damage to the muscles of the anus (common after childbirth)
- Previous anal surgeries
- Nervous system injury or disorder
- Severe constipation (more common in the elderly)
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Rectal prolapse
Often, there is more than one cause for bowel incontinence. A gastroenterologist will be able to help you determine what is causing this issue.
How is fecal incontinence treated?
A lot will depend on the underlying cause. For example, finding ways to better manage your inflammatory bowel disease can greatly improve bowel incontinence. There are certain exercises and therapies that your doctor may recommend such as Kegel exercises or biofeedback if you are dealing with damaged or weakened anal muscles. Patients whose bowel incontinence is due to diarrhea or constipation may be given certain medications such as anti-diarrheal medications or laxatives to improve their bowels. For certain structural issues such as rectal prolapse, your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery to repair the damage.
Since bowel incontinence is a sign of an underlying health problem, it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist as soon as possible to find out what’s causing your incontinence, as well as the best way to treat it.