Bowel incontinence is the inability to control your bowels. When you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, you may not be able to hold it until you reach a toilet. Or stool may leak from the rectum unexpectedly, sometimes while passing gas.
More than 5.5 million Americans have bowel incontinence and it affects people of all ages. It is more common in women and older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging. At Loma Linda University Medical Center's Section of Urogynecology, our doctors diagnose, consult, and treat patients suffering from bowel incontinence.
Causes of Bowel Incontinence
Bowel incontinence may be caused by one or more of the following:
- Conditions that alter bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
- Damage to the sphincters, the ring-like muscles at the end of the rectum, during childbirth
- Hemorrhoid surgery
- Rectal prolapse – a pelvic floor disorder where the rectum drops down out of the anus
- Rectocele – when the rectum protrudes into the vagina
Treatments for Bowel Incontinence
Treatment of bowel incontinence requires a proper diagnosis by a urogynecologic specialist. Since most bowel incontinence in women stems from damage during childbirth, our doctors will perform anorectal testing to test for weakness in the internal and external anal sphincters. Depending on the weakness levels of the sphincters, a MRI may be required to actually visualize where and how much the anal sphincter is damaged. Treatments may include diet change, medication, physical therapy or anal sphincter repair surgery.