Fecal incontinence (FI) affects more than 8% of women and men in the United States. You can develop FI due to muscle or nerve damage during childbirth, injury, or surgery, but the most common reason is simply aging. Nevertheless, even children, teens, or young adults may suffer from FI, too.
Most people with FI are highly embarrassed by the condition. When you have FI, your muscles or nerves in the sacral area are dysfunctional, which leads to the accidental release of small or large amounts of:
- Hard stools
- Liquid stools
Our colorectal experts at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford — in Bloomfield, South Windsor, and Plainville, Connecticut — customize treatment for FI so you can live your life freely, publicly, and without fear of shame or embarrassment. If you have FI, following are some treatments that may work for you.
If you have a mild case of FI, you may only need an adjustment to your diet to gain control of your bowels again. It’s possible that you’re sensitive or allergic to a food, which is causing diarrhea or inflammation. Common culprits include:
- Oily or greasy food
- Fast food
- Sugar substitutes
- Cruciferous vegetables
You may need to add more fiber to your diet. Hydration is also important. Even if you have an advanced case of FI that needs further treatment, adding more whole foods and water into your diet and avoiding inflammatory triggers may improve your comfort and reduce the frequency or severity of FI.
Bowel training starts with creating a regular schedule for bowel movements and sticking to it. Even if you can’t “go” at the time, it’s important to adhere to the schedule.
We may also recommend other exercises and habits that help strengthen your anal sphincter and retrain your muscles and nerves to withhold stool until you’re ready to pass it. Some possibilities include:
- Performing Kegel exercises
- Relaxing while on the toilet
Bowel training, Kegels, and other forms of exercise take a while to work. It’s important to stay consistent despite feeling frustration. We may also prescribe medications to help you deal with the transition as you regain bowel control.
Most over-the-counter medications for FI should only be used in the short term, as you’re adjusting to other therapies. Examples include anti-diarrheals such as loperamide hydrochloride, diphenoxylate, and atropine sulfate.
Depending on your situation, we may prescribe medications that are used to treat symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some examples include corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologics.
Axonics® SNM System™
The Axonics SNM System is an implanted device that stimulates your sacral nerves. The sacral nerves are located in your pelvis, near your tailbone. They control the muscles that affect healthy urination and defecation.
If you have any type of incontinence, sacral nerve stimulation (also known as sacroneuromodulation or SNM) gives you long-term relief. We implant a small device in your buttocks, which you adjust with a remote control.
Tens of thousands of FI and urinary incontinence patients have reclaimed their lives with the SNM system. Relief from FI and improved bowel control can last for many years.
In some cases, surgery is your best option for long-term FI relief. Options might be a sphincteroplasty, which tightens a weak or damaged anal sphincter. In extreme cases that don’t respond to other therapies, you may need a colostomy.
You don’t need to curtail your life or give up hope if you have fecal incontinence. Contact our experts at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford for customized treatment today. Call our friendly, discreet team at 860-242-8591, or schedule your appointment online.