Fecal incontinence (FI) is a common condition among the aging. About 18 million people suffer from it. If you are elderly and suffer from incontinence issues, life can be very difficult. Going out becomes a hardship, because you don’t know when an accident will occur. It is embarrassing, and it can be depressing. It can also be expensive. FI is one of the common reasons the elderly are committed to nursing homes.
Fecal incontinence can be caused by muscle weakness or the inability to feel when you have to go to the bathroom. Chronic diarrhea can result in the loss of bowel control. Hard stools from constipation can weaken muscles over time and eventually cause leakage. Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and injuries to the sphincter muscles can also cause FI. Neuropathy due to diabetes can result in loss of bowel movements. Hemorrhoids can physically prevent anal muscles from closing properly. Weakened pelvic muscles can also contribute to FI.
Dementia is another problem that can cause fecal incontinence. If your mental capacity is diminished, you won’t even realize you have to go until it is too late. Medications such as pain killers and laxatives can exacerbate problems because they can cause constipation or diarrhea, so consult and experience pain management doctor. Foods also can add to the problem. Dairy, alcohol, spicy foods and caffeine can cause loose stools to occur.
One method to treat FI is to eat the right amount of fiber and drink plenty of water. This will prevent constipation or diarrhea. You can also train your bowels to eliminate at certain times by going to the bathroom shortly after meals. This will reduce the incidence of accidents from happening. If you are physically capable, you can do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen those muscles .
Biofeedback is another alternative that has a 50% or more success rate. Using a computer and a special catheter, biofeedback teaches you how to tighten the right muscles, and offers visual and auditory cues so you know if you are doing it correctly. Electrical stimulation also can help contract the right muscles and teach you where they are located. There are no side effects to this method, although it must be done 2 to 3 times per week. It can take 3 to 4 months to see results.
Surgery can help if the problem involves weakened sphincter muscles. Surgeons can tighten these areas for better control. There is also a device that can be implanted that provides electrical stimulation to the nerves that serve the rectal muscles.
Fecal incontinence is a common problem that may force you to give up your independent life. These alternative treatments may prevent or delay that from happening.