Anal (Fecal) Incontinence

Introduction

Do you leak stool from the rectum unexpectedly?  Do you have problem controlling your gas?  Do you experience difficulty holding your stool once you feel the urge to have a bowel movement?  If so, you are likely suffering from Anal/ Fecal Incontinence.  Anal incontinence is defined as the involuntary or accidental loss of flatus, liquid or solid stool that is a social or hygienic problem.

The problem is more common than you may think.  Current estimates state that more than 5.5 million Americans have anal incontinence.  Several studies have placed the prevalence of anal incontinence as high as 14% in the general population.  A more troubling statistic indicates that as many as 50% of women with urinary incontinence also have fecal incontinence.  The following is perhaps the most troubling statistic of all:  according to a 1982 study published in The Lancet, 50% of women with fecal incontinence never report it unless specifically asked by their physician. 

Patients should understand that fecal incontinence affects women, men and children; it affects the young, the middle-aged and the elderly.  It does not discriminate based on race or socioeconomic status, and its effects can be devastating.  Individuals with fecal incontinence may feel embarrassed or humiliated.  Some patients with fecal incontinence refuse to leave the house and withdraw from society due to fear and anxiety of having an episode of incontinence in public.  

Many women feel that fecal incontinence is simply a normal part of aging.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are several treatment strategies to improve and even cure fecal incontinence, but unless your provider knows you are suffering from the problem, very little can be done.  Please, if you suffer from this devastating problem, speak with your provider today about treatment options.

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Causes of Fecal Incontinence

Diagnosis

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