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More About Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence means that you are not able to hold your feces, or stool, until you get to a toilet. There are many reasons for this, such as a case of diarrhea that strikes suddenly or damaged muscles or nerves within your rectum. Your rectum is the last section of your intestine. It controls bowel movements and signals when you need to go.

Experts believe that about 1 in 12 adults has fecal incontinence. Although it is not a normal part of getting older, you are more likely to have it as you age. Women are also more at risk for this condition than men are.

Symptoms of fecal incontinence include:

  • Leaking stool when you are not using the toilet, such as when you cough or pass gas
  • Passing stool before you can reach the toilet

The treatment recommended for your fecal incontinence will depend on its cause. You might need to try more than one, or a combination of treatments, to manage fecal incontinence. Possible treatments include:

  • Medicine. You may be prescribe medicines to help control diarrhea or other illnesses or diseases that contribute to fecal incontinence. A high fiber diet is almost always recommended.
  • Muscle training. Your healthcare provider may recommend certain exercises that could help strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor.
  • Biofeedback. This is a clinical tool that can help you learn to control your bowel movements.
  • Electrical stimulation. Implants that cause small electronic pulses may be surgically placed near important nerves to help manage bowel movements.
  • Anal plug. This removable device can make it easier for you to control when you go to the toilet. It is helpful for people who don’t mind the slight discomfort.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgery may improve your bowel function or fix a structural problem.
  • Other methods. You may be given shots or a magnetic bead implant to tighten the sphincter.