Fecal incontinence, or bowel incontinence is much less common than urinary incontinence, but its impact on well-being and quality of life can be just as devastating. The good news is you don’t have to suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and get help today. To get you started, here is some basic information about fecal incontinence and the treatments available to help you regain control of your life.
Fecal incontinence (also called bowel or stool or anal incontinence) is the involuntary loss of stool from the bowel. It can range in severity from occasional leakage when you pass gas to the complete loss of bowel control.
Occasional soiling is reported by up to 20% of people, whereas complete loss of control is much less common. About 1% of people under the age of 65 and 4%–7% of people over 65 have fecal ncontinence. It is three times more likely to occur in younger women than in men, until the age of 65 when things balance out and roughly the same number of men and women are affected.
Three things are necessary to maintain normal bowel health and function. If something is wrong with any of these functions, fecal incontinence can occur.
Anal sphincter muscles: Both the external and internal sphincters contract to prevent stool from leaving the rectum.
Rectal sensation: When your bowel is full, nerves send a signal to the brain warning you that it’s time to go to the bathroom.
Rectal accommodation: The muscular wall of the rectum stretches to allow you to hold stool until you reach the toilet.