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When to Worry About Fecal Incontinence

When to Worry About Fecal Incontinence

You may have expected some urinary incontinence as you aged, or when you were pregnant, but you probably never expected to experience fecal incontinence (FI). Nevertheless,

approximately 8% of women and men in the United States suffer from occasional-to-frequent episodes of accidentally losing control of their bowels. 

If you have a type of fecal incontinence known as urge FI, you may notice the urge to defecate, but you’re not able to make it to a bathroom on time. If you have a type of fecal incontinence known as passive FI, you may not even notice that you’ve passed mucus or stool through your anus until you check your underpants.

When you have fecal incontinence, our colorectal experts at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford conduct a thorough evaluation to determine why. Based on our findings, we then devise a treatment protocol that may include lifestyle changes as well as therapies, including possible surgery.

When should you worry about FI? The following brief helps you determine when it’s time to seek medical care.

Causes of fecal incontinence 

Fecal incontinence isn’t a condition, it’s a symptom. Any number of diseases or conditions could be behind your occasional-to-chronic loss of control, including:

You may also develop mild-to-severe fecal incontinence after giving birth, undergoing pelvic surgery, or after an injury. If you’re chronically constipated, you may have stretched your anus through straining and therefore can no longer retain stool long enough to reach a bathroom.

In short, if your body is completely healthy, you won’t experience fecal incontinence. Fecal incontinence is a sign that something’s gone wrong or isn’t working the way it should. You deserve to know why.

Fecal incontinence can be mild or severe

Sometimes fecal incontinence is a one-time occurrence. Maybe you took too much magnesium or ate something that caused an extreme case of diarrhea. But if it happens more than once, or if you pass large amounts of stool, you should request a medical evaluation.

In addition to causing embarrassment or shame, fecal incontinence can lead to complications, such as skin irritation around the anus. You may also be so afraid of losing control of your bowels that you curtail your social life.

No matter how infrequently you have episodes of fecal incontinence, if it affects your quality of life, you need treatment. Untreated fecal incontinence can lead to depression, social isolation, and anger.

Regain control of your bowels

You don’t have to suffer in silence and isolation with fecal incontinence. Our colorectal experts have decades of collective experience diagnosing the causes of fecal incontinence and devising customized treatment plans.

In about one out of five cases, fecal incontinence resolves with lifestyle changes alone. In general, you can expect about a 60% reduction in your symptoms. Some new habits that could improve your continence and your life include:

While you wait for your therapies to improve your continence and your quality of life, you can wear absorbent pads so you won’t have an accident that you can’t easily recover from. You may also benefit from over-the-counter medications to control diarrhea (e.g. Pepto-Bismol® or Kaopectate®) or constipation (i.e. Metamucil® or laxatives).

If these measures don’t significantly improve your continence and quality of life, we may recommend other types of therapies. Sacral nerve stimulation with Axonics SNM System™ can help your anal sphincter regain strength. 

Injections can decrease the size of your anus. You may also benefit from surgical procedures that repair stretched or weakened pelvic floor muscles.

Fecal incontinence and “sharts” are no laughing matter. To regain control of your bowels, contact our team at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford by phone at 860-242-8591. You can also schedule your appointment online at our Bloomfield, South Windsor, or Plainville, Connecticut, clinic nearest you.

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