What is faecal incontinence?
Faecal incontinence occurs when you are unable to control wind, liquid stool, or solid motion of your bowels. People suffering from faecal incontinence have difficulty controlling their bowels and pass faeces or wind without control. This condition is common, particularly when it comes to passing wind, and at least one in 20 people are affected by it.
Faecal incontinence may not be life-threatening, but it can impact your quality of life and affect your emotional wellbeing. The condition can also indicate more serious underlying medical issues too.
Symptoms and causes of faecal incontinence
Also referred to as bowel incontinence, faecal incontinence has several common causes, including constipation and diarrhoea. Muscle and nerve damage can also lead to the condition while some causes are often associated with ageing and giving birth too. These conditions can harm the strength of the rectal muscles and result in incontinence. Risk factors include physical disability, age, nerve damage, and being female.
The main symptom of faecal incontinence is the inability to control the passing of stools or gas, along with not being able to make it to the bathroom in time to have a bowel movement. For some, this incontinence can be controlled to an extent. For others, however, complete loss of control occurs.
Symptoms also include:
Diagnosis and treatment
Dr Elliot will assess your symptoms to diagnose faecal incontinence and conduct several tests to identify the condition’s underlying cause. These tests may include a rectal exam which includes anorectal manometry and anorectal ultrasound to test the rectal squeeze pressures and rectal musculature and anatomy. Further radiological screening may be requested to determine if the damage to the sphincter mechanisms.
There are various laxatives, anti-diarrheal drugs and medications available to treat faecal incontinence. You can also benefit from dietary changes, as well as lifestyle changes, like exercising regularly. If treatment does not work, Dr Elliot may recommend surgery. Surgery for faecal incontinence includes sphincter repair, a colostomy and sphincter replacement. As a specialist gastroenterologist, Dr Michael Elliot specialises in these faecal incontinence repair surgeries.