The incidents of bowel incontinence tend to increase with age and there are many reasons someone might experience incontinence. Some patients may have more than one reason they are experiencing trouble with accidental leakage.
Common causes of bowel incontinence include:
Injury During Childbirth – These injuries may cause a separation in the anal muscles and decrease in muscle strength. The nerves supplying the anal muscles may also be injured. While some injuries may be recognized immediately following childbirth, many others may go unnoticed and not become a problem until later in life. In these situations, past childbirth may not be recognized as the cause of incontinence.
Nerve Damage – Nerve damage can be caused by straining during bowel movements or certain medical conditions including complications with diabetes, multiple sclerosis or stroke, which can affect nerves in the area. When these nerves don’t sense stool in the rectum or aren’t controlling the anal sphincter fecal incontinence can occur.
Constipation – Chronic constipation can cause nerve damage and also lead to dry, hard stool that becomes too large to pass and becomes impacted. This can cause the rectal muscles to stretch and eventually weaken, allowing watery stool from farther up to move around the impacted stool and leak out.
Diarrhea – Liquid stool, like diarrhea, can fill the rectum quickly and is more difficult to hold in than solid stools. Frequent diarrhea can cause muscles in the rectum and anus to weaken making it even more difficult to control the stool.
Surgery – Certain surgeries, like those to treat to treat hemorrhoids or other anal conditions, can cause muscle and nerve damage that may lead to bowel incontinence.
Certain Foods – While specific foods don’t typically cause bowel incontinence they can worsen the symptoms by causing diarrhea and gas making leakage more likely. Caffeine, greasy foods, spicy foods and artificial sweeteners are triggers for some people.
Talk To Your Doctor About Bowel Leakage
There are many other reasons why someone might experience incontinence. Talking to your doctor is important to identify the cause and develop the right course of treatment.
Sometimes simple dietary changes, at home exercises or changing a prescribed medication is all that is needed to treat the problem.
In other cases biofeedback can be used to help patients sense when stool is ready to be evacuated and help strengthen the muscles.