Many otherwise healthy, active people suffer from loss of bowel control, or bowel incontinence. It can strike people of all ages. It is a long-term (chronic) and unpredictable symptom, which can be caused by many conditions. It is often referred to as fecal incontinence or accidental bowel leakage (ABL).
Why Does Incontinence Occur?
Continence depends on properly functioning muscles and nerves in and around the rectum and anal canal. Any condition that interferes with these complex mechanisms may result in bowel incontinence. Examples that can contribute to the development of includes childbirth, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), pelvic or anal surgery, neurological diseases, traumatic injuries, and radiation treatments for certain cancers.
This is a distressing and isolating condition. It has a major impact on social and work related aspects of life. Although it is often associated with aging, it is not a part of the normal aging process.
Treatment and Management
Management often involves dietary changes, medication, or bowel management/retraining programs. Individuals should work with a knowledgeable healthcare professional to develop an individualized management/treatment plan.
Incontinence is generally treatable, yet, most individuals with incontinence never discuss the condition with their doctor. It may be difficult to bring up the subject of bowel incontinence with a doctor. But remember, doctors are there to treat and help with unusual health conditions. They do it every day.
Incontinence is surprisingly common. So if you notice changes in your bowel control, don’t let embarrassment and your lack of knowledge about treatment options prevent you from finding the help you need. Here are some tips on how to talk to your doctor.