Fecal Incontinence? You’re Not Alone
Having “an accident” as an adult can be extremely embarrassing – something you might not even feel comfortable discussing with your doctor. Know that you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that about 5% of women over the age of 60 will have experienced an involuntary loss of stool.
This can arise from any number of medical conditions that weaken the body’s ability to hold stool in, such as diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and spinal cord injuries, just to name a few.
But did you know that even pregnancies and childbirth that may have happened many years prior can lead to incontinence of stool decades down the road?
You might be especially at risk if you had a vaginal delivery, particularly one with known trauma to the anal sphincter, or one that required forceps. Big babies (especially those over 9.5 pounds) can also put you at increased risk for troubles down the road.
Another surprising reason some women have fecal incontinence is chronic constipation. Though it seems counterintuitive, hard stool sitting in the rectum for prolonged periods of time can actually result in overflow of loose stool, and even relaxation of the sphincter, or muscle that holds stool in, resulting in incontinence of even formed or hard stool.
Depending on the cause of the incontinence, there are various treatment or management options that exist. So don’t suffer in silence, and don’t be embarrassed to bring this up with your doctor. The sooner you do, the better, especially if you are older than 40, or have chronic diarrhea or risk factors for colorectal cancer. Take control of your symptoms before they take control of you.