Fecal Incontinence

Women who suffer from fecal incontinence –also known as bowel incontinence – lack the ability to control defecation. As a result, they often suffer from involuntary release of their bowel contents. This could be solid feces, but also liquid stool or flatus (gas).

Woman embarrassed by FI

Causes

Fecal incontinence (FI) could be connected to anything from pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, nerve damage, diarrhea or constipation.

Embarrassment of FI

Fecal incontinence is one of those problems that often goes untreated because it’s embarrassing to talk about. In fact, many people feel shame or experience low self-esteem because of this issue and choose not to talk to their friends or doctors about it. As a result, they may experience a major decrease in quality of life because of FI. For example, they might give up on social activities because they are worried about not having easy access to a bathroom.

Managing the Condition

One of the reasons many people avoid seeking treatment for fecal incontinence is that they don’t want to talk about the issue. In addition, they often aren’t aware of the treatment options available – which can be as simple as dietary and behavioral changes along with pelvic floor muscle strengthening. In most cases FI can be successfully managed, so there is no reason for you to live with this debilitating condition. Dr. Grace is a North Carolina pelvic health doctor who offers you the opportunity to discuss this problem in a safe, comfortable environment where you don’t have to feel ashamed.

Dietary Approach

Fecal incontinence that is a result of diarrhea or constipation can often be resolved through changes in diet. For example, adding more fiber to the diet can be a good way to regulate the consistency of the stool. Alcohol, glucose, lactose and artificial sweeteners can also affect your digestive system and worsen fecal incontinence.  The fat substitute olestra, found in many diet products, can also cause diarrhea.

 Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a form of therapy that helps you understand how muscles respond to a mix of different stimuli. Once you learn how to contract and relax muscles and different parts of the body, you can then use that to control your rectum better and in turn stop fecal incontinence.

Exercises

Another option is pelvic floor exercises and anal sphincter exercises, especially for fecal incontinence tied to weak muscles. These exercises can strengthen the anal muscles and help you learn about voluntary contraction and relaxation. This in turn can show you how to contract your muscles properly to avoid involuntary defecation.

What to Expect During Treatment

Because the causes of fecal incontinence are so varied, Dr. Grace will spend time during your initial consultation asking questions and trying to figure out what’s behind the FI. Sometimes it might be necessary to try a combination of treatments in order to achieve the best results. You don’t have to live with fecal incontinence, but it’s important that you are willing to communicate with your doctor openly to achieve the best results.