Faecal incontinence

Faecal Incontinence is the inability to control the passage of faeces or flatus from the anus. The severity varies between minor accidents and complete inability to control the stool.  For some people it may be the urge to defecate with inability to hold on for long, needing to run to the toilet. These symptoms can be very debilitating, affecting all areas of life.

There are many causes of faecal incontinence. These include injuries associated with childbirth, chronic constipation and straining, rectal prolapse and faecal impaction. Diseases of the bowel such as inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Previous surgical interventions such as haemorrhoidectomies, or surgery for fistulae or fissures. There are many other causes.

Up to 5% of the population in Australia suffer from faecal incontinence.  It is more common in the elderly and people in nursing homes.

Diagnosis is by history and clinical examination. Sometimes colonoscopy is carried out to exclude other bowel problems. Tests of the anal muscle are carried out to determine further treatment. These include manometry, anal ultrasound and pudendal nerve latency.

Symptoms of faecal incontinence are readily improved. Treatment options are outlined here.

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