Faecal incontinence refers to the inability to control bowel movements, which can lead to involuntary leakage of faecal material from your anus. This can vary from person to person and in some may be characterised by passing a small piece of stool while passing wind or some people may feel no sensation before passing a stool. It is a common condition, with one in 10 people thought to be affected at some point in their life. Some people are affected by this condition on a daily basis, whereas others are only affected from time to time.
The most common cause of faecal incontinence is a primary medical condition that weakens the nerves and/or muscles in the bowel. It can also be caused by other long-term medical conditions, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and dementia. Furthermore, it can be caused by abuse of laxative medications, chronic diarrhoea, or previous surgeries to the rectum, anus, prostate or gynaecological surgery.
At the Neurogastroenterology Diagnostic Unit we can investigate the function of the nerves and muscles to identify the likely causes of faecal incontinence, which will help in developing the management plan.
Treatments can lead to the affected individual maintaining normal bowel function throughout their life. Common treatments for this condition include:
- Lifestyle and dietary changes
- Exercise programmes to strengthen the muscles in your rectum and anus
- Medication to control the symptoms of constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Surgery to treat the known cause