Even if you don’t have fecal incontinence, you can easily imagine the embarrassment of losing control of your bowels and the substantial impact it would have on your daily life.
No matter how embarrassed you may feel, don’t hesitate to talk with the team at Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery. They specialize in bowel problems such as fecal incontinence and offer many treatments, including simple treatments like diet changes and muscle-strengthening exercises that significantly improve your symptoms.
About fecal incontinence
Controlling your bowel movements involves your rectum, the muscles in your anus, your pelvic floor muscles, and the nerves that communicate between your rectum and brain.
Your rectum collects stool and holds the waste until it’s full. Two circular muscles around your anus, the inner and outer sphincters, hold stool in the rectum until you’re ready to go to the bathroom.
You control the external sphincter, while your body controls the internal sphincter. Another group of muscles called the pelvic floor muscles form part of the anus and control bowel movements by stopping stool from leaving the rectum when it’s not supposed to.
Nerves sense when the rectum is full and send a message to your brain. Then your brain responds, giving you the urge to have a bowel movement. However, you should be able to control the muscles and hold stool in the rectum until you get to the bathroom.
When a problem occurs in any part of the process, you can develop fecal incontinence. Several of the most common causes include:
- Sphincter muscle damage
- Pelvic floor disorders
- Nerve damage
- Neurologic diseases
- Chronic constipation
- Childbirth by vaginal delivery
- Rectal prolapse
Weak pelvic floor muscles can let the rectum drop down into the anus (a rectal prolapse) or the vagina (rectocele).
Fecal incontinence treatments
There are many effective treatments for fecal incontinence. This list isn’t comprehensive, but it gives you a good idea of the range of therapies you can receive to help get your fecal incontinence under control:
The foods and beverages you consume go a long way toward relieving fecal incontinence. However, the changes you need to make depend on the underlying cause. We recommend dietary changes based on your symptoms, if you have diarrhea or constipation, your current diet, and when your fecal incontinence happens.
Your incontinence may improve with medications that help stop diarrhea or relieve constipation.
You can train your body to have bowel movements at certain times of the day. Though this often helps, it can take weeks to months before this therapy alone improves your fecal incontinence.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises
When you have pelvic floor disorder, Kegel exercises can improve fecal incontinence by tightening and strengthening the muscles.
Biofeedback makes it easier to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and learn to control sensations of urgency. Specialized sensors help you identify and contract the appropriate muscles.
We may prescribe medications that reduce stool frequency, add bulk to stools, increase the tone of the sphincter muscle, or reduce contractions in the colon. You may also need medications to treat underlying conditions.
Sacral nerve stimulation
The sacral nerves control the muscles in your anus, rectum, and colon. Using a mild electrical current regulates the nerves and eliminates fecal incontinence in 40-75% of people with healthy anal sphincter muscles.
Anal electrical stimulation
Anal electrical stimulation targets the sphincter muscles. The stimulation makes the muscles contract, which strengthens them.
Injecting biocompatible bulking agents into the anal wall narrows the opening and helps the sphincter muscle close tightly.
We may recommend surgery when your fecal incontinence doesn’t improve with other treatments or the pelvic floor muscles or anal sphincters are injured.
You may be a good candidate for one of several types of surgery. One of the most common is surgery to repair a torn anal sphincter. Two other examples include implanting an artificial sphincter or surgically repairing a prolapsed rectum.
If you suffer from fecal incontinence, our compassionate team at Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery can help. Call one of our offices in Brielle or Manahawkin, New Jersey, or use the online booking feature today.