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Bowel Incontinence

Bowel incontinence is the loss of bowel control, leading to an involuntary passage of stool that can range from occasionally leaking a small amount of stool and passing gas, to completely losing control of bowel movements.

Among people over age 65, most surveys find that women experience bowel incontinence more often than men. One to three out of every 1,000 women report a loss of bowel control at least once per month.

To hold stool and maintain continence, the rectum, anus, pelvic muscles and nervous system must function normally. You must also have the physical and mental ability to recognize and respond to the urge to have a bowel movement.

Treating bowel incontinence begins by identifying the cause of the incontinence. There are several ways to strengthen the anal and pelvic muscles and promote normal bowel function.

Causes and Contributing Factors

Common causes of fecal incontinence include diarrhea, constipation and muscle or nerve damage. The muscle or nerve damage may be associated with aging or with giving birth. Other contributing factors may include:

  • Chronic laxative use
  • Colectomy or bowel surgery
  • Decreased awareness of sensation of rectal fullness
  • Emotional problems
  • Gynecological, prostate or rectal surgery
  • Severe hemorrhoids or rectal prolapse
  • Stress of unfamiliar environment

Whatever the cause, fecal incontinence can be embarrassing, but since treatments are available that can improve fecal incontinence and your quality of life, talking to your doctor is very important. 

For more information about our incontinence care program, call our health navigator: 470-325-6947.
If you're experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911.