Bowel Incontinence Introduction
Bowel incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements. It's a common problem, especially among older adults.
Bowel incontinence is usually not a serious medical problem. But it can seriously interfere with daily life. People with bowel incontinence may avoid social activities for fear of embarrassment.
Many effective treatments can help people with bowel incontinence. These include:
- minimally invasive procedures
Talking to your doctor is the first step toward freedom from bowel incontinence.
Bowel Incontinence Causes
The most common cause of bowel incontinence is damage to the muscles around the anus (anal sphincters). Vaginal childbirth can damage the anal sphincters or their nerves. That's why women are affected by bowel incontinence about twice as often as men.
Anal surgery can also damage the anal sphincters or nerves, leading to bowel incontinence.
There are many other potential causes of bowel incontinence, including:
- Diarrhea (often due to an infection or irritable bowel syndrome)
- Impacted stool (due to severe constipation, often in older adults)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Nerve damage (due to diabetes, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, or other conditions)
- Radiation damage to the rectum (such as after treatment for prostate cancer)
- Cognitive (thinking) impairment (such as after a stroke or advanced Alzheimer's disease)
More than one cause for bowel incontinence is frequently present. It's also not unusual for bowel incontinence to occur without a clear cause.
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