Fecal or bowel incontinence is the loss of normal control of the stool, resulting in the unexpected release of stool from the rectum. This problem affects up to five million people in the United States. Bowel incontinence is more common in women than in men and can range from a small stool leak when gas is channeled to complete loss of bowel control.
Causes of faecal incontinence
There are many causes of bowel incontinence. The condition occurs when something is wrong with the complex mechanisms of the body that maintain continence. Continence depends on the functioning of muscles and nerves in and around the rectum and anal canal.
Common causes of fecal incontinence are diarrhea, pelvic floor dysfunction, muscle and nerve damage, loss of storage capacity, and constipation.
Diarrhea or loose stools may be associated with a feeling of urgency or leaking stools due to frequent watery stools passing through the anal opening. Diarrhea is more difficult to control than bowel movements, and even people who don’t have bowel incontinence can have an accident if they have diarrhea.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction – The pelvic floor plays an important role in maintaining continence, and pelvic floor abnormalities can lead to bowel incontinence. These dysfunctions are: decrease in the perception of rectal sensation, reduction of pressure in the anal canal, reduction in compression pressure of the anal canal, disturbed anal sensation, fall of the rectum (rectal prolapse) and protrusion of the rectum by the vagina ( rectocele). The cause of pelvic floor dysfunction is often caused by childbirth.
Muscle damage – Bowel incontinence is most often caused by injury to one or both of the circular muscles at the end of the rectum called the anal sphincter. The sphincters keep the chair inside. If damaged, the muscles are not strong enough to do their job and stool may leak. In women, the damage often occurs at birth. Anal surgery or damage to the tissues surrounding the anal area can damage the anal muscles and interfere with bowel control.
Nerve damage – Fecal incontinence can be caused by damage to the nerves that control the anal sphincters or the nerves that detect stool in the rectum. If the nerves that control the sphincter muscles are injured, the muscle will not work properly and incontinence can result. Nerve damage can be caused by childbirth, a long-term habit of beating stools, strokes, and nerve diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Memory loss – usually the rectum stretches to hold the chair until you get to the bathroom. But rectal surgery, radiation therapy, and inflammatory bowel disease can cause scarring that makes the walls of the rectum stiff and less elastic. The rectum cannot stretch as much to hold stool, which leads to incontinence.
Constipation is one of the most common causes of fecal incontinence and can lead to a large amount of stool in the rectum, which is called constipation. Insufficient stool is a large mass of dry, hard stool that interferes with the normal ability to control bowel movements. A watery stool coming from the top of the intestine can move around the impaction and leak.