September 01, 2019

Fecal incontinence

Finding relief

If you're living with chronic fecal incontinence, you may be familiar with this scenario: You're at a co-worker's retirement party when you feel the urge to have a bowel movement. Though you're able to quickly get to a bathroom, you discover that — much to your embarrassment — stool has leaked into your underwear. And unfortunately, this isn't the first time it's happened to you.

Being unable to control bowel movements — called fecal incontinence — is a common condition in people as they age, particularly women.

People with fecal incontinence may experience distress, anxiety, depression or a drop in self-esteem. They may have a lower quality of life due to the fear of an accident preventing them from doing things they enjoy, such as exercising or attending social gatherings. They may also feel hopelessness, assuming that this condition is just another unfortunate and unfixable part of aging.

However, fecal incontinence isn't a normal part of aging and isn't a problem that needs to be suffered in silence. There are multiple, effective treatments to reduce symptoms or cure the condition.

Causes of fecal incontinence

Typically, fecal incontinence falls into two categories: Not being able to reach a bathroom before leakage occurs (urge incontinence) or lacking the sensation that lets you know you have to go to the bathroom, with leakage occurring that you may not feel (passive incontinence).

The cause of fecal incontinence isn't always known, but common conditions that may lead to it include: